by Karen Krueger
A summary of vital document protection in preparation for possible emergencies was taken from an Internal Revenue Service document by Wheat Ridge Ministries. With the most lamentable consequences of disaster presently around us following Hurricane Matthew, and the long-term impact starting to be recognized, I thought you might find this list a helpful reminder for congregations and other organizations.
Protecting Your Tax Records from Hurricane Matthew*
As Hurricane Matthew pummels eastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the IRS published IR-2016-128 to show you how to protect tax records.
- Emergency Plans — Both individuals and businesses should have an emergency plan. Many persons and businesses in the direct path of Hurricane Matthew have been ordered to evacuate. You should plan an evacuation route in the event that an evacuation order applies to you. Individuals could use a safe, safety deposit box or other method for secure storage of tax records. Businesses should maintain backups of important local network data offsite in order to facilitate recovery. Your emergency plan should be updated each year.
- Electronic Copies — Scan or save PDFs of your tax returns, financial statements, certificates and insurance policy declaration pages. Keep the electronic copy in a safe or safety deposit box. You may save electronic records to a USB flash drive, CD or DVD.
- Document Valuables — Photograph and retain records for all of your high-value items. These items may include jewelry, art or other collections. IRS Pub 584 gives suggestions on how to document these valuables. Photos are particularly helpful if there is a hurricane or other natural disaster that destroys property. In that case you will need to file an insurance claim and show evidence of the lost item.
- IRS Help — You may call 1-866-562-5227 to speak to an IRS Disaster Specialist. A taxpayer may request copies of prior IRS Forms 1040 with Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Another option is the Get Transcript service on www.irs.gov. A third method is to call 1-800-908-9946 to request assistance in recovering your IRS documents.
* Reprinted by permission from Washington News Release (10/12/16) by Wheat Ridge Ministries, a nonprofit with Lutheran roots that helps health and human care initiatives get off the ground.