by Arlene Rheinfelder, EA CP AZCLDP, Enrolled Agent, Certified Paralegal, AZ Certified Legal Document Preparer, Prescott Tax & Paralegal LLC
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Fires in Montana and California. The recent Goodwin Fire, which forced the evacuation of Mayer and neighboring communities. For those who’ve lived here awhile, the Yarnell Fire, Indian Fire and Doce Fire. Few of us have been left untouched by disaster. We have either been personally involved, or know someone affected.
Our basic disaster-supplies kit is packed and ready to go. However, preparing for disaster includes more than survival supplies.
Once the evacuation orders are lifted, families returning home may find that nothing is left. Their financial records are destroyed, and proving losses for insurance and tax purposes becomes a nightmare.
There are a few simple steps one can take prior to disaster to ensure that you have the basic records needed to prove your losses for both insurance and tax purposes.
- Scan and store the following in secure cloud storage, or on a portable hard drive that goes in your evacuation bag:
- The four most recent tax returns, and each tax return that involves a 1031 exchange.
- The HUD settlement statement for your real estate and receipts for any improvements made to the property
- Annual photos or video of each room in your home to document the contents.
- Receipts for more expensive items of personal property.
- Vehicle purchase contracts.
- Complete Publication 584 (Personal) and 584-B (Business) Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook (available to download from the IRS) to have a detailed list of assets. Scan and store this on a portable hard drive.
After the disaster, take photos or videos to document the damage as soon as possible. Disaster losses in a declared federal disaster area may be claimed on the prior year income tax return by amending the tax form. This is important because frequently income is decreased in the year of the disaster, and there is often a larger refund created by amending the prior year income tax form.
Preparing to survive disaster is important. You can find tips on physical preparation at www.ready.gov. Keeping accurate records in a portable format is also important. For more information visit irs.gov, and search keyword “disaster.”