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Be Prepared for Natural Disasters

With hurricane season underway, it’s a good idea to think about what you can do to be prepared should a hurricane or other natural disaster strike where you live. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.

The IRS offers help

In the case of a federally declared disaster, taxpayers can call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.

Get a copy of a tax return

Taxpayers who need a copy of their prior-year tax return have several options. If they:

  • Went to a paid preparer, they might be able to get a copy of last year’s tax return from that preparer.
  • Used the same tax preparation software this year that they used last year, that software will likely have their prior-year tax return.
  • Didn’t use the same tax preparation software this year, they may be able to return to their prior-year software and view an electronic copy of that return.

Get a Transcript

Taxpayers who are unable to access prior-year tax return using the above methods can get a copy of their transcript by going to IRS.gov and using the Get Transcript application. By selecting “Get Transcript Online,” the taxpayer can immediately view, print or download their transcript. If they prefer to have a copy sent to the address that the IRS has on file, they can select “Get Transcript by Mail.” They should receive their transcript in the mail in five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives their request online.

Update emergency plans

Because a disaster can strike any time, you should review emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, they should update plans accordingly. They should also tell employees about the changes.

Individuals and businesses should make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them.

Create electronic copies of key documents

Keep a duplicate set of key documents in a safe place, such as in a waterproof container and away from the original set. Key documents includes bank statements, tax returns, identification documents and insurance policies.

Obtaining documents is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original documents are provided only on paper, these can be scanned into a computer. Documents can also be downloaded to a storage device like an external hard drive or USB flash drive.

Document valuables

It’s a good idea to photograph or videotape the contents of your home, especially items of higher value. Documenting these items ahead of time will make it easier to claim any available insurance and tax benefits after the disaster strikes.