With New York possibly in the path of Hurricane Irene this weekend, Hudson Valley residents are looking today to see what they can do to safeguard their homes and property. But how about important papers such as financial records?
The Internal Revenue Service says taking some time now to safeguard your records could save major headaches in the aftermath of a storm.
Here are some tips from the IRS:
1. Recordkeeping Take advantage of paperless recordkeeping for financial and tax records. Many people receive bank statements and documents electronically and important documents like W-2s and tax returns can be scanned into an electronic format and stored on a flash drive or CD in a safe place. Keep it with other essential documents like home-closing statements, vehicle titles, insurance records and birth, death or marriage certificates and legal paperwork. Some online services can automatically back up computer files and store them offsite. Regardless of how you save your documents (whether it is electronically or on paper) ensure they are safe from the elements, but also encrypted and/or locked up to guard against disclosure or theft.
2. Document Valuables The IRS has disaster loss workbooks for individuals that can help you compile a room-by-room list of your belongings. One option is to photograph or videotape the contents of your home, especially items of greater value. You should store the photos or video in a safe place away from the geographic area at risk. This will help you recall and prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims in the event of a disaster.
3. Help from the IRS In the event of a disaster, the IRS says it stands ready to help. The IRS has valuable information you can request if your records are destroyed. If you have been affected by a federally declared disaster, you can receive copies or transcripts of previously filed tax returns free of charge by submitting Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. Indicate the official name of the disaster in red at the top of the form, to expedite processing and waive the usual fee for tax return copies.