June 13--A new hurricane season has started and South Floridians need to plan how to safeguard their valuables, including financial documents and tax records.
Mike Dobzinski, the Plantation spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, gives three ways to protect yourself if a hurricane blows away -- or destroys -- years of records.
Backup records electronically. Dobzinski recommends keeping a set of backup records, including birth certificates, passport, tax returns and insurance policies, in a safe place away from the original set. "Even if the original record is only available on paper, it can be scanned into an electronic format," Dobzinski said. "With documents in electronic form, taxpayers can download them to a portable backup storage device such as an external hard drive, CD or DVD." Cyberspace has made it easier for you to retrieve scanned documents, such as older U.S. Savings Bonds, without worrying about them getting lost or destroyed during a hurricane, added Plantation certified financial planner Benjamin Tobias.
Document valuables. The IRS spokesman also advised South Floridians to photograph or videotape the contents of their home, especially their valuables. Photos of possessions "can help an individual prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims," Dobzinski said. The IRS also has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster and Theft Loss Workbook, at irs.gov, which can help you compile a room-by-room list of belongings, he added.
Update Emergency Plans. Those plans should be reviewed at least once a year with financial records updated, Dobzinski said. Keep handy your insurance agent's phone number. If a disaster strikes, affected taxpayers can call 866-562-5227 to speak with IRS specialists trained to handle disaster-related issues, he said.
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