As we brace for the first storm of the season – Tropical Storm Barry – we reflect on the many storms that have come before this one that Bryson Law Firm, LLC has seen. Countless hurricanes, tropical storms, and floods have wreaked havoc on Louisiana, sending many Louisiana residents to our offices in the aftermath to address tax problems created by these natural disasters.
“How do I file my returns if I’ve lost all my records?” “What deductions are available to me because of my losses?” “How do I pay the IRS if I spent the tax money I’d had saved on rebuilding my house?” “Will the IRS forgive me of these penalties for filing and/or paying late because of the storm?”
Bryson Law Firm, LLC knows all too well the affects hurricane damage and flood loss can have on a Taxpayer. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 things we recommend all Taxpayers do in preparation for a Natural Disaster:
- Find your personal documents and get them to safety. This includes your personal documents like birth certificates and social security cards as well as ownership paperwork like auto and boat titles.
- Find your tax documents and get them to safety. Collect actual copies of returns that are already filed and all supporting documents like bank statements, receipts, W-2s, 1099s. Also gather together and protect all of your relevant tax information for the current tax period like paystubs, bank statements, and receipts.
- Find your insurance paperwork or call your agent/broker and request a copy of your policies. This goes for auto, home, life - everything. And, of course flood insurance if you have a policy.
- Videotape everything in your house - inside and out. Don't forget your outdoor furniture and vehicles (record the odometer for mileage). If your house or other property floods, this will be your best proof to claim catastrophic losses. Narrate the video while you're taping. Name each item, name the brand, name the price at purchase (estimate the price if can't remember), name the approximate date of purchase or age. More is better here! Send the video file to your email or backup the data to the cloud in case your phone or other device gets damaged or lost. (P.S. If your house floods or incurs storm damage, be sure to record the damage via video and photos).
- Save your receipts if you have to evacuate. This includes gas, hotel, meals - everything. These can be potential tax break items for some taxpayers.
- If time allows, go paperless. Consider investing in a scanner to scan all tax documents, bank statements, receipts, W-2s, 1099s, insurance paperwork, and personal documents. Elect to receive your bank statements and bills electronically.
- Protect your tech! If you’re one of the many who keeps all important documents in digital format (saved on a computer, laptop, tablet, hard drive, etc.), be sure that your electronics are kept high and dry. If you evacuate and if you have room to accommodate these electronics, bring them with you. Don’t forget to back up your devices and have your chargers and power cords handy.
- Gather a list of your passwords. If you get displaced for an extended period of time, you'll need them to access your banking and tax information. Many of us make our tax payments online and the filing deadlines for extended returns are fast approaching in September and October. You don't want to be unable to make payments simply because you don't have the right passwords to access your accounts.
- In the event of a federally declared disaster, know that the IRS has specialists who are trained to handle disaster-related issues. You can contact the IRS at (866) 562-5227 if you need to request copies of any previously filed tax returns and their attachments.
- AFTER THE STORM PASSES, if you were a victim of this natural disaster and suffered flood damage or property loss, contact Bryson Law Firm, LLC for your tax needs. We’ll walk you through your options for record recreation, casualty losses, extensions of time on payment/filing, and tax resolution options.
Praying for our Employees, their families, our clients, and friends as we brace for the storm – stay safe, y’all!