Five Tips for Safeguarding Your Records
Some natural disasters are more common in the summer, but major events such as hurricanes, tornadoes and fires can strike at any time. It’s always a good idea to plan for what to do in case of a disaster. Here are some basic steps you can take right now to prepare:
- Backup Records Electronically. Many people receive bank statements by email. This is a good way to secure your records. You can also scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You can use an external hard drive, CD, DVD or Blu-ray disc to store important records. Be sure you back up your files and keep them in a safe place. If a disaster strikes your home, it may also affect a wide area. If that happens you may not be able to retrieve your records.
- Document Your Valuables. Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should store the photos and videos away from the area where you live either in the cloud or with a friend or relative who lives elsewhere. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.
- Update Emergency Plans. Review your emergency plans every year. Personal and business situations change over time as do preparedness needs. So, update them when your situation changes. Make sure you have a way to get severe weather information and have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches. In addition, when employers hire new employees, or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.
- Get Copies of Tax Returns or Transcripts. Use Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to replace lost or destroyed tax returns. You can also file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, which can be used to request transcripts for the current and three most recent years, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, which can be used to request transcripts for older years and special situations. If you need assistance filling out any of these forms, please call our office.
- Check on Fiduciary Bonds.Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.
If you fall victim to a disaster, tax and financial advice is just a phone call away. Don’t hesitate to call our office regarding any disaster-related tax questions or issues you might have.