IRS issues record retention guidance due to Harvey

The IRS has reminded individuals and businesses to safeguard their tax records against natural disasters by taking a few simple steps. Taxpayers should always keep a duplicate set of records including bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies in a safe place such as a waterproof container, and away from the original set. Keeping an additional set of records is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the internet. Even if the original records are only provided on paper, these can be scanned into an electronic format.
Taxpayers are encouraged to save the scanned records to the cloud, or to other storage devices. Taxpayers are urged to photograph or videotape the contents of their homes, especially items of higher value. The IRS disaster loss workbooks and IRS Publication 584 can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. A photographic record can help taxpayers prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Ideally, photos should be stored with a friend or family member who lives outside the area. Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.
Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider. If disaster strikes, affected taxpayers are encouraged to call 1-866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. Back copies of previously-filed tax returns and all attachments, including Forms W-2, can be requested by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Alternatively, transcripts showing most line items on these returns can be ordered by calling 1-800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. (IRS News Release IR-2017-145; FS-2017-11, September 7, 2017.)

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