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IRS Offers Disaster Preparedness Tips for Taxpayers

September 7, 2017, 9:00 AM HST
* Updated September 6, 9:00 PM
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Hurricane Irma, Sept. 4, 2017. NWS/NOAA.

The Internal Revenue Service is urging taxpayers to be ready for natural disaster as part of September’s National Preparedness Month. Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and with Hurricane Irma threatening parts of the U.S. and Caribbean, the IRS announced it has a special toll-free number for taxpayers in federally declared disaster areas to handle related issues.

The IRS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend the following tips to be prepared for hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters:

Create Electronic Copies of Key Documents
Keep a duplicate set of key documents including bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies in a safe place. Store them in a waterproof container away from the original set.

Document Valuables
Photograph or video the contents of any home, especially items of higher value. Documenting these items ahead of time will make it easier to claim any available insurance and tax benefits following a disaster. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.

Check on Fiduciary Bonds
Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

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Update Emergency Plans
Review emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes. Make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them.

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IRS Ready to Help
In the case of a federally-declared disaster, any affected taxpayer can call (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 filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Alternatively, transcripts showing most line items on these returns can be ordered through the Get Transcript link on IRS.gov, by calling (800) 908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

For more information about National Preparedness Month, visit Ready.gov/September.

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