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IRS encourages taxpayers to prepare for Hurricane Dorian

With Hurricane Dorian threatening to hit the state of Florida after passing through parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the IRS sent a reminder Thursday to taxpayers encouraging them to prepare for natural disasters, with the peak of hurricane season just ahead.

The IRS noted that taxpayers can start getting ready for a disaster with a preparedness plan that includes securing and duplicating essential documents, creating lists of property, and knowing where to find information once a disaster has occurred.

The IRS advised taxpayers to put important documents such as tax returns, birth certificates, deeds, titles and insurance policies inside waterproof containers in a secure space. “Duplicates of these documents should be kept with a trusted person outside the area a natural disaster may affect,” said the IRS. “Scanning them for backup storage on electronic media such as a flash drive is another option that provides security and easy portability.”

Puerto Rico Braces For Tropical Storm Dorian
A person walks along a beach ahead of Tropical Storm Dorian in Patillas, Puerto Rico.

It’s also a good idea to shoot photos or videos of the contents of a home or business to help support claims for insurance or tax benefits in the event of a disaster. All property, particularly costly items, should be recorded. The IRS disaster-loss workbooks can help individuals and businesses compile lists of belongings or business equipment.

Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the company if it has a fiduciary bond in place, the IRS recommended. The bond can safeguard an employer in case of default by the payroll service provider. The IRS also suggested employers create an account on the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System’s EFTPS.gov site where they can monitor their payroll tax deposits and sign up for email alerts.

After a disaster hits, reconstructing records may be required for tax purposes, getting federal assistance or insurance reimbursement, the IRS noted. Taxpayers who have lost some or all of their records during a disaster can visit IRS’s Reconstructing Records webpage.

In case a federally declared disaster occurs, taxpayers can visit the IRS webpage for information or call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.

A taxpayer affected by a disaster outside a federally declared disaster area can still qualify for disaster relief, the IRS pointed out. That includes taxpayers who aren’t physically located in a disaster area, but whose records necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline postponed during the relief period are located in a covered disaster area. Taxpayers who are outside a federally declared disaster area need to identify themselves to receive relief, which they can do by calling (866) 562-5227.

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