FAMILY MATTERS IRS Promotes Disaster Readiness and Hurricane Preparedness
Update emergency plans annually Because a disaster can strike any time, it’s important that plans be current. Individual and family emergency plans should be reviewed annually. They need to be updated when changes occur, such as change in marital status, size of the family or relocations. When a company or organization hires new em- ployees or changes functions, it should update emergency plans and inform employees. Backup key documents Taxpayers can help themselves recover from a disaster by keeping key docu- ments in a safe place. These include bank statements, tax returns and insur- ance policies stored securely in a waterproof container. Have a duplicate set of key documents stored safely away from the originals. Many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, making retrieval of that information easier. Original paper documents can be scanned and downloaded to an external hard drive, flash drive, CD or DVD. Document valuables A picture can be worth a thousand words, especially those that document the contents of a home or business before and after a disaster. Photographs can help prove the fair market value of property when filing insurance or casualty loss claims. Photos should be stored with backup files outside the area that may be affected by a disaster.
The IRS has disaster-loss workbooks that can help compile lists of personal belongings or business equipment. Images may fit on the same storage device as electronic documents. Beware of scams and fraud After a disaster, criminals and scammers try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers who want to help victims. Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person using a variety of tactics. • Some impersonate charities to get money or personal and financial information. • Some create bogus websites similar to legitimate charities to trick people to send money or provide financial information. • Others operate bogus charities and solicit money or financial information by telephone or email. Limit on personal casualty and theft losses. Recent tax law changes limit losses that can be claimed on a federal tax return When disaster strikes, the IRS is here to help. When there is a federally-declared disaster, a special IRS toll-free hotline at 1-866-562-5227is open so affect- ed taxpayers can speak with specialists trained to handle disaster-related tax issues.