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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Tips from the IRS: Preparing for Natural Disasters Amidst Hurricane Season

As we've entered into National Preparedness Month, the Internal Revenue Service reminds people to create or maintain an emergency preparedness plan. A well-thought-out plan is a critical component for surviving natural disasters. Taxpayers, whether individuals, organizations or businesses, should take time now to create or update their emergency plans. 


A solid plan includes securing and duplicating essential documents, such as receipts for charitable giving, creating lists of property and knowing where to find information once a disaster has occurred. 

Secure key documents and make copies 

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 of the taxpayer. Scanning them for backup storage on electronic media such as a flash drive is another option that provides security and portability.  


Document valuables and equipment 

Current photos or videos of a home or business’s contents can help support claims for insurance or tax benefits after a disaster. All property, especially expensive and high-value items, should be recorded. The IRS disaster-loss workbooks in Publication 584 can help individuals and businesses compile lists of belongings or business equipment. 


Employers should check 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. The IRS reminds employers to carefully choose their payroll service providers.


Rebuilding documents

Reconstructing records after a disaster may be required for tax purposes, getting federal assistance or insurance reimbursement. Those who have lost some or all their records during a disaster can visit IRS’s Reconstructing Records webpage as one of their first steps.  


IRS stands ready 

Taxpayers whose address of record is identified by the IRS as qualifying for disaster tax relief will automatically receive an extension to file and interest and payment relief for most tax returns - there is no need to call the IRS to request this relief.  The IRS lists the relief available and areas qualifying for relief on the Around the Nation website. Taxpayers impacted by a disaster with tax-related questions can contact the IRS at 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 necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline postponed during the relief period are in a covered disaster area. Taxpayers located outside of a federally declared disaster area must self-identify to receive relief by calling 866-562-5227. 

Find complete disaster assistance and emergency relief details for both individuals and businesses on IRS.gov. 

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For more information about National Preparedness Month, visit Ready.gov/September.

Written by Filomena Trujillo-Mealy, Relationship Manager - Tax Specialist, Communication & Liaison for the Tax Outreach, Partnership & Education Branch of the Internal Revenue Service.

Mrs. Mealy received her Bachelor's degree from Rutgers University and has been working with the Internal Revenue Service for over 30 years. Before assuming her current position, she spent time working in many other areas within the IRS. Her responsibilities include developing outreach partnerships with non-tax companies, organizations and associations. She is also a frequent contributing writer for Communal News, TapInto, and other news sources. 

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