Rebuilding Tax Records After The Storm(s)

Hurricane Irma
National Guard Photo by David Sterphone/Public Domain

For those of us in the mainland U.S. affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we got punched hard.

First Texas, then Florida. Many people in Houston and surrounding areas as well as people in the Florida Keys lost everything. For those in Puerto Rico, they got a double whammy: First Irma, then Maria. The entire island’s infrastructure was destroyed and the personal possessions of practically every citizen have been lost or compromised. The majority of the island  still doesn’t have electricity or even water for drinking, bathing or cooking.

Now what to do?

It will be many months for some and many years for others to rebuild. And, I acknowledge that the last thing on the minds of all those who lost their homes and their personal possessions is likely to be taxes. However, that issue will need to be dealt with eventually.

Tax deadlines have been extended in all federally declared disaster areas. For specific extension details visit https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/help-for-victims-of-hurricanes-irma-and-maria

As you come to terms with your loss, what is important to consider is how to get access to information that may have been lost and how to make claims for the unimaginable losses that have been suffered.

You’ll want to have some sort of visual record. Hopefully, you had the presence of mind to take photos of your home prior to the hurricane’s arrival. Now that the damage has been done, you need to take pictures to record the loss to file for help from FEMA and/or your insurance company.

You’ll also want to get transcripts of the previous year’s tax returns.

You can get them from the IRS for free at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript

If you lost your car, there are several resources that you can use to help determine the fair market value of your car. They include Kelly Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association, both of which can be found online and in most libraries.

These are just a few of the basics, but it’s a great place to begin pulling your life together again. You can also find more information on the websites mentioned above. Finally, keep in mind that your tax preparer will also have your previous year’s tax records. We humans are strong and in time, your life, which has been disrupted by Mother Nature, will get back on track.