In the wake of Hurricane Florence, which wreaked havoc on the Carolinas, it is important to have an emergency readiness plan in place in case disaster strikes where you are. Your plan should include evacuation procedures, taking care of your pets/family members, and protecting your most important documents. Your first priority is the safety of you and your loved ones, and the last thing you want to worry about during this time are insurance claims, tax documents, and financial information. The Internal Revenue Service is reminding individuals and companies to take precautions and steps to make sure their financial information is protected. There are a few central documents and personal forms that are important to have copies of and to keep safe especially during a natural disaster. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking at protecting yourself.
Protect original documents
This includes bank statements, tax returns, deeds, and insurance policies. You can protect these documents by storing them in a safe place such as a home safe, a safety deposit box, or other storage options. Keep in mind where you store your documents, if it will get damp in the area, if it will be bleached by the sun and if pests would have access to it.
Records should be stored in a secure but easy to reach spot. This might mean keeping a safe or filing cabinet at home instead of storing it at a local safety deposit box if you believe you won’t get to it easily.
Keep Digital Copy
You should highly consider scanning your documents and storing them electronically. Scanning documents in can keep the documents safe and accessible from different sites. You can either scan them onto an external hard drive, put them on Dropbox or Google Docs or use other options available online. Remember the IRS does accept scanned receipts. If you rely on the cloud for offline storage, be sure that it’s both secure and that there’s a reliable backup system.
Don’t Rely On Your Tax Preparer
Do not assume that your tax preparer or accountant will keep copies of your records for you. It’s your responsibility to produce documentation to IRS upon request so don’t toss out your information because you assume that you can get them from your accountant or tax preparer.
Once you secure your records, make an extra set of key documents to keep with a family member or trusted friend. You can also look at taking pictures or videos of the documents along with the contents of your home or business. Documentation is not only important for your taxes but it can also help support insurance claims, as well as any tax benefits like a casualty loss.
If you need additional resources, the IRS has a disaster-loss workbook for individuals, Publication 584 and businesses, Publication 584-B that can help you compile lists of belongings or business equipment. If you need help after a natural disaster, Polston Tax can help! Our team of IRS tax attorneys and tax accountants can help keep you financially on track. Call us today at 844-841-9857 or click below to schedule a free consultation.