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Play it safe: Putting important papers under lock and key may not be the best protection

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Some natural disasters are more common in the summer. But major events like hurricanes, tornadoes and fires can strike any time.

“It’s a good idea to plan for what to do in case of a disaster,” said Dan Boone, spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service.

“You can help make your recovery easier by keeping your tax and financial records safe.”

Basic steps Boone recommends include:

• Backup records electronically. Those who have access to paperless bank and other financial statements online may already have documents securely stored there.

Consumers can also scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. Use an external hard drive, CD or DVD to store important records. Be sure to back up files and keep them in a safe place. Remember, a disaster may also affect a wide area. If that happens, it may be impossible to retrieve records from home.

• Document valuables. Take photos or videos of home or business contents. These visual records can help prove the value of lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on tax returns. Store the photos with a friend or relative who lives out of the area.

• Update emergency plans. Review emergency plans every year, and update them when situations change. Be sure to have a way to get severe weather information. Have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches.

• Get copies of tax returns or transcripts. Visit IRS.gov to get Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to replace lost or destroyed tax returns.

For information only from a return, order a free transcript online at irs.gov or call 1-800-908-9946. Taxpayers can also file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

• Count on the IRS. Those who fall victim to a disaster can call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 for special help with disaster-related tax issues.

Visit IRS.gov for more information about IRS disaster assistance.