security — June 22, 2012

Safeguard Your Tax Records

by Laura Tallent

safeguard tax records before stormTime to "batten down the hatches" … hurricane season has arrived. The IRS encourages individuals and businesses to start planning now to safeguard their tax records in preparation for natural disasters. Here are a few simple steps that can help you be prepared should disaster strike.

1. Backup records electronically. You should keep a set of backup records in a safe place away from the original set. Keeping a backup set of records, bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, etc., is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically. Even if the original record is only available on paper, it can be scanned into an electronic format. With documents in electronic form, you can download them to a portable backup storage device such as an external hard drive, CD, or DVD that you can take with you in the event that you need to evacuate.

2. Document valuables. You should photograph or videotape the contents of your home, especially items of higher value. A photographic record can help you prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Photos should be stored at an outside location.

To document your valuables, the IRS has a helpful tool, Publication 584, Causality, Disaster and Theft Loss Workbook, which can help you compile a room-by-room list of belongings.

3. Update Emergency Plans. Emergency plans should be reviewed at least once a year. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company changes functions, plans should be updated and employees should be informed.

4. IRS Ready to Help. If a disaster strikes, you can call 1-866-562-5227 to speak with IRS specialists trained to handle disaster-related issues. You can requests copies of previously filed tax returns by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. You can also request transcripts showing most line items on a return online at, by calling 1-800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Return.

More information on preparing for disasters can be found at Forms and publications can be downloaded at or ordered by calling 1-800-829-3676.

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