Hurricane season is here. Are you (and your financial records) prepared?

We are well into the 2011 hurricane season and although a devastating storm hasn’t hit our area (yet), it is important to make sure your personal and/or your business; financial and tax records, as well as valuables, are protected in the event of a disaster. Here are some tips from the IRS that can help:

Create a Backup Set of Records Electronically

  • Keep a set of backup records in a safe place. The backup should be stored away from the original set.
  • Keeping a backup set of records including, for example, bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, etc. is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original records are provided only on paper, they can be scanned into an electronic format. With documents in electronic form, you can download them to a backup storage device, like an external hard drive, or burn them to a CD or DVD.

Document Valuables

  • Photograph or videotape the contents of your home or business, especially items of higher value. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook,Publication 584, which can helpyou compile a room-by-room list of belongings.
  • A photographic record can help you prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Photos should be stored with a friend or family member living outside the area.

Update Emergency Plans

  • Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When you hire new employees or when your company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.

IRS Ready to Help

  • If disaster strikes, you can call 1-866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.
  • Back copies of previously-filed tax returns and all attachments, including Forms W-2, can be requested by filingForm 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return.
  • Alternatively, transcripts showing most line items on these returns can beordered on-line, by calling 1-800-908-9946 or by usingForm 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript orForm 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.