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Superstorm Sandy tax considerations; California cities' soda tax falls flat

Tax records at top of one Superstorm Sandy survivor's evacuation list

Long-time readers of the ol' blog know I'm weather obsessed.

They also have come to dread welcome my nagging reminders about storm preparation, including the importance of tax material, whenever a natural disaster is imminent.

Well, I'm not one to say I told you so -- ignore that laughter from the hubby in the background -- but today I ran across a first-hand account from a Superstorm Sandy victim about what he saved from the storm's flood.

Michael Winerip writes in today's New York Times' Booming column about "a few things we rescued" when water from the hurricane started rushing into his family's Long Beach, N.Y., home.

NYT video report by Michael Winerip on Superstorm Sandy damage to Long Beach NY Click image to see New York Times reporter Michael Winerip's coverage of Superstorm Sandy damage to his Long Island community.

The first thing Winerip listed? Tax receipts.

I'll let him tell you why:

Saved: tax receipts. I kid you not, they were one of the first things I carried to safety. Until you are looking Armageddon square in the eye, you do not realize how central to your being the I.R.S. is. I have a highly unscientific way of filing my receipts for the year: I throw them into a wooden crate in my office closet and then, 15 months later, on April 1, I dump them onto the living room floor and organize them into piles with titles like "electric."

Saved: several folders with notices of unpaid taxes from the I.R.S. We save money for our children's college educations in tax-free 529 accounts, and every year, for the last four, the I.R.S., bless their little bureaucratic hearts, sends a notice charging us with using that money for noncollege purposes. The most recent "Notice of Deficiency" claimed we owed $3,208 in back taxes. That is when I go to my folders, find receipts for the tens of thousands of dollars of college expenses we pay each year, then mail my response to the IRS. This year's final adjudication by the IRS was typical; they sent an amended statement saying we owed $2.

Of course, Winerip and his family grabbed other, more personal items as the water kept rising in their house.

I'm glad they all got out safely and with some valuable mementos that are priceless to them.

But I'm also glad that Winerip had the clarity in such a chaotic time to realize how important his tax documents are.

Tax material, especially copies of previous years' filing and the supporting records, can be crucial to claiming storm-related losses on an amended or current year tax return.

That's why I always pester encourage folks to set up a "Go Bag" for an emergency situation and to include tax documents along with other crucial financial files, such as insurance policies and financial statements.

The Atlantic hurricane season will be over in a couple of weeks. But then winter weather will be bearing down on us in full force. Blizzards and ice storms can cause tremendous damage, too.

So please be prepared for those potential natural disasters.

When you have to evacuate at a literal moment's notice, you don't have time to gather much of anything, personal or financial. So get it together before disaster strikes and make sure taxes are part of your storm preparation.

And pray you never have to use it.

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