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Tips on rebuilding tax and other records lost in a disaster

Reviewing flood damaged records
Records, tax and financial, are often among the property damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster. If you're lucky, you might be able, like this woman, to salvage some of the documents. If not, you'll need to recreate them to take advantage of tax-related storm relief. (Image courtesy Louisiana Law Blog)

It looks like Florida is about to be hit by another hurricane. Current Subtropical Storm Nicole is expected to accelerate from a subtropical system into a hurricane before it makes landfall along the Sunshine State's Atlantic coast.

That's terrible news for Florida residents still dealing with the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Ian. But that experience just more than a month ago should mean that most Floridians are well aware of storm prep steps.

Prepare for disaster beforehand: One of the things storm-ready Sunshine Staters did (or should do now) is gathering important personal and financial documents. This material will help in your recovery efforts, from dealing with insurance agents to claiming uncovered losses on your taxes.

Among the documents that need to go into a stormproof container are —

  • A pre-storm inventory, which will make any insurance claims go more smoothly. You can use the information in IRS Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook, to help with your recording of your property.
  • Bank and other financial documents, or at least a list of account numbers.
  • Copies of your driver's license, passport, and other personal identification cards.
  • Medical records, including a list of all your current prescription medications.
  • Latest filed tax return and material needed to file your current taxes.
  • A credit card with enough available credit to cover any post-storm needs.
  • Cash in case power outages make using a credit card or accessing an ATM impossible.

If you prefer, make copies of this material for your disaster kit/go bag and store the originals in a safe place, such as safe deposit box, preferably in an area not in a storm's path. You also can send the information to a trusted friend or relative outside your danger/storm zone.

And, being a big fan of redundancy, I also suggest you make digital copies on a thumb drive, CD, or use cloud storage.

Reconstructing records: If, however, a storm catches you and your records unprepared, you'll need to reconstruct them. The documentation could be critical after a disaster in proving losses and getting the relief for which you're eligible.

Here are some ways to rebuild your lost records in three key areas.

Tax records are needed to file or amend returns on which you claim storm losses. You can get your prior federal data from the IRS by using the tax agency's online Get Transcript tool. Getting a transcript is free and immediate. If you prefer, you can order transcripts by calling toll-free (800) 908-9946 and following the prompts.

Financial statements can be recovered by contacting your bank or credit card company. Recent records usually can be obtained online. If you need paper versions, you might need to call or visit the financial institution.

Property records are available from a variety of sources.

Homeowners can get residential documents by contacting the title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of their home or other property. County or parish clerks and/or tax assessors also should have records of real property purchases and valuations.

If you made improvements to your home or other property, get in touch with the contractors who did the work and ask for statements to verify the work and cost. Also reach out to friends and relatives who saw the house before and after any improvements and get written descriptions of the changes from them.

Where property was inherited, check court records for probate values. If a trust or estate existed, contact the attorney who handled the trust.

Car owners can research the current fair-market value for most vehicles. Resources include Kelley's Blue Book (KBB), the National Automobile Dealers Association, and Edmunds. They are available online and at most libraries.

While preparing for a disaster can be a hassle, it generally is easier than reconstructing records. But if worse comes to worst, these tips should help you rebuild your records, and then start rebuilding your storm-damaged life.

You also might find these disaster-related items of interest:







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