The IRS has reminded taxpayers—whether individuals, organizations or businesses—to develop an emergency preparedness plan as the peak of hurricane season fast approaches.

Taxpayers should place original documents such as tax returns, birth certificates, deeds, titles, and insurance policies inside waterproof containers in a secure space. Duplicates of these documents should be kept with a trusted person outside the area that a natural disaster may affect. The documents can also be secured by keeping scanned copies as backup storage on electronic media, such as flash drives.

Taxpayers should take photographs or videos of a home’s or business’s contents, which could help support claims for insurance or tax benefits after a disaster strikes. All property, especially expensive and high value items, should be recorded. 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.

Record Reconstruction

Reconstructing records after a disaster may be required for tax purposes, for getting federal assistance, or for insurance reimbursement. Information on losing records can be found on the Reconstructing Records webpage.

In the case of a federally-declared disaster, taxpayers should visit the IRS website for information, or call 866.562.5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. A taxpayer impacted by a disaster outside of a federally declared disaster area may qualify for disaster relief. This includes taxpayers who are not physically located in a disaster area, but whose records that are necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline postponed during the relief period are located in a covered disaster area.

Further information can be found by reviewing IRS Publication 2194, Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses, or by visiting the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Assistance website.