IRS urges taxpayers to prepare for natural disasters

WASHINGTON —  Because a natural disaster can strike any time, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding individuals and businesses to take time now and create or update their emergency preparedness plan. During 2018, the IRS has offered tax relief and assistance to millions of victims of natural disasters, including hurricanes, severe storms, flooding, tornados, wildfires, high winds, tropical storms, an earthquake and a volcano. Individuals, families and businesses begin getting ready for a disaster with a preparedness plan that includes key documents, lists of belongings and property.

Copies of key documents
Original documents, including bank statements, tax returns, deeds, titles and insurance policies, should be kept in a safe place in waterproof containers. A duplicate set of key documents should be kept with a family member or trusted friend outside the area the disaster may affect. Rather than copy paper documents, scanning them for backup storage on a hard drive, flash drive, CD or DVD takes less space. Many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically.

Document valuables and equipment
Photographs or videos of the contents of any home or business, especially high value items, can help support claims for any available insurance or tax benefits should a disaster strike. The IRS has a disaster-loss workbook for individuals (Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook) and businesses (Publication 584-B, Business Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook) that can help people compile lists of belongings or business equipment. Images may fit on the same storage device as electronic documents.

Check on fiduciary bonds
Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

IRS ready to help
In the case of a federally-declared disaster with FEMA Individual Assistance, an affected taxpayer can call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. Taxpayers can get copies of previously filed tax returns and all attachments, including Forms W-2, by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Tax transcripts that show most line items on a tax return can be ordered through the Get Transcript link on IRS.gov, by calling 800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

Hurricane preparedness tips are available on the National Weather Service web site. Plan ahead for disasters with Ready.gov.

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