Slideshow Rebuilding tax records after a disaster

Published
  • October 09 2017, 9:00am EDT

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While tax records are hardly a first priority for those affected by natural disasters like those that recently struck Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, taxpayers who are victims of a disaster will need to reconstruct their records – not least to help prove and document their losses, either for tax purposes, or for getting federal assistance or insurance reimbursement.

With that in mind, the IRS created a handy list of things taxpayers can do to help get their records back in shape in the aftermath a disaster.

Get transcripts

Taxpayers can get free tax return transcripts by using the Get Transcript tool on IRS.gov, or use their smartphone with the IRS2Go mobile phone app. They can also call (800) 908-9946 to order them by phone.

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Create a visual record

To establish the extent of the damage, taxpayers should take photographs or videos as soon after the disaster as possible.

Reach out to financial institutions

Taxpayers can contact the title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of their home to get copies of appropriate documents.

Check insurance

Home owners should review their insurance policy, as the policy usually lists the value of a building to establish a base figure for replacement.

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Talk to contractors

Taxpayers who made improvements to their home should contact the contractors who did the work to see if records are available. If possible, the home owner should get statements from the contractors to verify the work and cost. They can also get written accounts from friends and relatives who saw the house before and after any improvements.

Ask the courts, or the local town or county

For inherited property, taxpayers can check court records for probate values. If a trust or estate existed, the taxpayer can contact the attorney who handled the trust.

When no other records are available, taxpayers can check the county assessor’s office for old records that might address the value of the property.

Look for independent sources

There are several resources that can help someone determine the current fair-market value of most cars on the road. These resources are all available online and at most libraries:
* Kelley’s Blue Book
* National Automobile Dealers Association
* Edmunds

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Check your phone

Taxpayers can look on their mobile phone for pictures that show damaged property before the disaster. Taxpayers can support the valuation of property with photographs, videos, canceled checks, receipts, or other evidence.

It’s in the cards

If the taxpayer bought items using a credit card or debit card, they should contact their credit card company or bank for past statements.

Not as sketchy as it sounds

If a taxpayer doesn’t have photographs or videos of their property, a simple method to help them remember what items they lost is to sketch pictures of each room that was impacted.

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More from the IRS

The IRS also noted that it has a ton of publications that can help in post-disaster recovery: