Reconstructing Records After a Disaster

As the end of year approaches and tax season right around the corner, taxpayers who are victims of a natural disaster might need to reconstruct records to prove their loss. Doing this may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. With that in mind, here are some tips will help individual taxpayers, as well as business owners, reconstruct their records after a disaster:

Individual Taxpayers

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

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

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

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

5. Taxpayers who made improvements to their home should contact the contractors who did the work to see if records are available. If possible, the homeowner 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.

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

7. 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.

8. There are several resources including Kelley’s Blue Book, National Automobile Dealers Association, and Edmunds 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:

9. Taxpayers can look on their mobile phone for pictures that show the damaged property before the disaster.

10. Taxpayers can support the valuation of property with photographs, videos, canceled checks, receipts, or other evidence.

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

12. 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.

Small Business Owners

After a disaster, many business owners might need to reconstruct records to prove a loss as well. Here are four tips that may be helpful for business owners that need to reconstruct their records:

1. To create a list of lost inventories, business owners can get copies of invoices from suppliers. Whenever possible, the invoices should date back at least one calendar year.

2. For information about income, business owners can get copies of last year’s federal, state and local tax returns. These include sales tax reports, payroll tax returns, and business licenses from the city or county. These will reflect gross sales for a given period.

3. Owners should check their mobile phone or other cameras for pictures and videos of their building, equipment, and inventory.

4. Business owners who don’t have photographs or videos can simply sketch an outline of the inside and outside of their location. For example, for the inside the building, they can draw out where equipment and inventory were located. For the outside of the building, they can map out the locations of items such as shrubs, parking, signs, and awnings.

Help is Just a Phone Call Away

If you have been a victim of a natural disaster this year, and need assistance reconstructing tax records, don’t hesitate to call.

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