How to Safeguard Tax Benefits Against Natural Disasters

tax-tips-for-hurricanes-disasterswritten by Jay Logal

In the midst of hurricane season, the IRS has released tax tips and other advice to help taxpayers with natural disasters and similar emergencies. The underlying theme for all tips is that record keeping has generally become easier in the digital age. However, it remains the primary responsibility of the taxpayer to preserve adequate records whether or not caused by a disaster.

Preparation Checklist
The IRS advises taxpayers to consider taking the following steps to better prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies.

Emergency plans: Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. An emergency plan, both at home and in business, should be updated annually. Whether for safety or to prepare for insurance claims and tax contingencies.

Digital copies of key documents: Taxpayers should keep a duplicate set of key documents including bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies in a safe place, away from the original set. The IRS observes that maintaining an additional set of records should be easier these days, with many financial institutions providing statements and documents electronically and on secure internet sites. Even if the original records are only provided on paper, the IRS suggests scanning them into an electronic format.

Taxpayers should also photograph or videotape the contents of their residences, especially items of higher value. The IRS disaster loss workbooks can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. A photographic record can help prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Ideally, photos should be stored outside the area of the home or office.

Payroll providers: The IRS suggests that employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. It notes that the bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

IRS data storage: Back copies of previously-filed tax returns and all attachments, including Forms W-2, can be requested by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Alternatively, transcripts showing most line items on these returns can be ordered through the Get Transcript tool available on the IRS website, or by calling 1-800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, “Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript” or Form 4506-T, ” Request for Transcript of Tax Return.”

The IRS will often extend filing deadlines and offer hot line accessibility, but the burden of proof on substantiation and other requirements found within the tax laws is ultimately placed upon the taxpayer’s shoulders. Please contact us if you have any questions 417-881-0145.


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