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Friday September 21, 2018

Washington News

Washington Hotline

IRS Provides Natural Disaster Preparation Tips for Taxpayers

With hurricane season underway, the IRS urges taxpayers to be prepared in the case of a natural disaster. In IRS Tax Tip 2018-130, the IRS provided helpful tips and information for taxpayers to consider before a natural disaster strikes.

1. Obtain a Copy of a Tax Return: The IRS encourages taxpayers to keep a copy of their prior-year's tax return. If an individual worked with a paid tax preparer, he or she should contact the preparer and request a digital copy of their prior year's tax return. If an online software program was used to prepare the return, a copy of the return should still be accessible through that online software.

Taxpayers who are unable to either secure copies of their prior year's tax returns by asking their tax-preparers or obtain copies through online software programs can acquire a copy of their transcript on the IRS's website, irs.gov, using the "Get Transcript" application. Taxpayers can choose the "Get Transcript Online" option to immediately view, download and print their transcript. Alternatively, they may select the "Get Transcript by Mail" option to receive a printed copy in the mail within five to 10 days of the request.

2. Update Emergency Plans: The IRS reminds taxpayers that a natural disaster can occur at any time and, as such, it is important to always maintain current versions of their emergency plans. Taxpayers should have emergency plans in place for both their families and their businesses. In addition, since life is constantly changing and businesses are regularly evolving, it is important to conduct annual reviews of emergency plans and to discuss them each year with family members and employees.

3. Make Electronic Copies of Key Documents: Key documents, such as identification documents, bank statements, tax returns and insurance policies, should be copied and kept in a secure location, such as a waterproof container or fireproof safe. The IRS recommends obtaining digital copies of these documents or scanning paper copies so that they can be kept on a storage device, like an external hard drive or USB drive.

4. Document Home and Valuables: For insurance and tax reasons, the IRS encourages taxpayers to take photographs and record video of their property, including the interior and exterior of their homes and valuable property items. By documenting these items now, taxpayers will have an easier time claiming insurance and tax benefits in the event of a natural disaster. As new property is acquired, taxpayers should continuously update their files.

5. Call the IRS for Help: In the event of a federally-declared disaster, taxpayers can call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist who is trained to handle disaster-related issues. Taxpayers can also visit irs.gov and review Publication 584, "Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook," or view the IRS's webinar, "Staying Afloat: Planning for Emergencies Before they Happen," for more guidance and information.

Published August 24, 2018


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