In recognition of National Hurricane Preparedness Week and National Wildfire Awareness month, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reminding taxpayers to protect important tax and financial information as part of a complete emergency preparedness plan. So far in 2023, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared disasters for mudslides, landslides, severe storms, tornadoes, and more. Disasters can have an immediate and lasting impact on individuals, organizations, and businesses. Year-round preparation is critically important, and observing Hurricane Preparedness Week and Wildfire Awareness month provides a perfect opportunity for an annual assessment of readiness. These tips will help taxpayers protect personal financial and tax information for a complete preparedness plan. Taxpayers are also encouraged to visit Ready.gov and IRS.gov for additional disaster information.
Keep key documents safe; make extra copies
Original documents such as tax returns, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and deeds should be placed inside a waterproof container in a safe space. Taxpayers are encouraged to also make copies of these important documents and store them in a secondary location such as a safe deposit box or with a trusted person who lives in a different area. In addition, scanned documents can be stored on a flash drive for easy portability.
Create a record of valuables and equipment
All property, especially high-value items, should be recorded. A simple list with current photos or videos may also help support claims for insurance or tax benefits after a disaster. The IRS disaster loss workbooks in Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook (Personal-Use Property) and Publication 584-B, Business Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook can help individuals and businesses make lists of belongings or business equipment.
Reconstructing or replacing records after a disaster may be required for tax purposes, claiming federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. The more accurately the loss is estimated, the more loan and grant money there may be available. Taxpayers who have lost some or all their records during a disaster should visit IRS’s Reconstructing Records webpage as a first step.
Employers should check fiduciary bonds
Employers using payroll service providers should check if the provider has a fiduciary bond in place that can protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider. The IRS reminds employers to carefully choose their payroll service providers.
IRS can provide tax relief after a disaster
After FEMA issues a major disaster or an emergency measures declaration, the IRS may postpone certain tax filing and payment deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in certain counties affected by the disaster. The IRS provides details on states and counties that have been issued relief on the IRS disaster relief page. Taxpayers in the affected areas do not need to call to request this relief. The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies filing and payment relief. Those impacted by a disaster can contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 to ask their tax-related questions of an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. Taxpayers who do not reside or have a business in a covered disaster area but suffered impact from a disaster should call 866-562-5227 to find out if they qualify for disaster tax relief and to discuss other available options.