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How to Reconstruct Financial Records After a Natural Disaster

Reconstructing your financial records after a natural disaster is essential for tax purposes, as well as requests for insurance reimbursement and federal assistance. Although this may seem like a daunting task, your access to loan and grant money will heavily depend on your ability to accurately estimate your losses. If you have lost some or all of your paperwork, follow these simple tips on how to reconstruct financial records after a natural disaster.

Recreating Your Lost Records

Thanks to technology, reconstructing newer records is generally easier than trying to replace older ones. Many records can be obtained online and downloaded for use. Older records may require a little more effort, but it is still possible to reassemble the lost pieces.  

Tax Records

You can get copies of your previous tax returns and transcripts by contacting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

  • To view, print, or download your transcript for free online, use the IRS Get Transcript Tool.
  • Order by mail by using Form 4506-T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return) or Form 4506 (Request for Copy of Tax Return). Be sure to include the appropriate disaster designation in red letters at the top of the form to expedite processing and waive fees.
  • Request transcripts through the IRS2Go mobile phone app.
  • Order transcripts by phone by calling 800-908-9946 and following the instructions.

Real Estate

For personal residence and real property records, the following may help reconstruct any lost or damaged records. In addition, take photographs and videos of your real estate as soon as possible after a disaster to establish the extent of the damage sustained.

  • Contact the bank, escrow company, or title company that handled your home or business property purchases for copies of your records.
  • Get copies of current property tax statements from the county assessor’s office.
  • Establish a basis or fair market value (FMV) by reviewing comparable sales within your neighborhood. You can use an appraisal company or a website, such as HomeValue.com.
  • If improvements were made to your home/buildings, contact contractors for statements or receipt copies. Reach out to the lender for records, if you took out a loan to pay for the improvements.
  • Review your insurance policy online to see if the value of your building/land is listed.
  • Check court records for probate values on inherited property.
  • Contact attorneys who handled any property transactions through a trust or estate.

Vehicles

Was your vehicle destroyed in a disaster? Here’s how you can establish what you paid for it and its current FMV.

  • Contact the dealership where you purchased it and get a copy of the contract.
  • Get a copy of your loan paperwork from the lender/bank.
  • For FMV, check with Kelley Blue Book online or Edmunds.com.

Personal Property

Reconstructing financial records for your personal property can be a little more complex, but not impossible. Here are some things to consider when creating your list of lost items and their values.

  • Check your social media accounts for photos or videos of any items that may have been lost or destroyed in the disaster.
  • Go through your phone and/or camera for photographs of missing/lost items.
  • Review online credit card and bank statements for dates of purchases and prices.
  • Check websites to establish replacement cost and FMV.
  • Sketch a floor plan of each room impacted. Include furniture, shelves, and their contents. Don’t forget about your walls, too. It doesn’t have to be professionally drawn, just functional.

Business Records

If your business was impacted by a natural disaster, here are the steps you can take to help reconstruct your lost records.

  • Request invoice copies from all suppliers/vendors that date back at least one calendar year.
  • Check your phone or camera for any pictures taken of your building, equipment, or inventory.
  • Get copies of your bank statements to determine income/sales for any given period.
  • Obtain copies of last year’s local, state, and federal tax returns. This should include, payroll taxes, sales tax reports, as well as business licenses from your city or county.
  • Ask your broker for a copy of your purchase agreement.
  • Request a copy of your building plans from your contractor or planning commission.
  • Sketch an outline of your business location, inside and outside. Be sure to include any parking areas, signs, and landscape outside your building.

Additional Tax Relief

The IRS often provides tax relief to taxpayers who live in a federally declared disaster area. This typically includes extended tax filing deadlines for individuals and business owners. In addition, you may be able to deduct the loss or partial loss of personal and business use property on your individual federal income tax return for the year you incurred the loss. You may also elect to amend your previous year’s tax return if you paid taxes the year before the disaster occurred. This may provide a refund of all or some of the taxes you paid on the prior return instead of waiting to file your current tax return.

You can view a list of the current tax relief available to disaster victims by visiting the IRS Recent Tax Relief page. If you’re not sure if your area has been declared a federal disaster area, go to DisasterAssistance.gov to see what assistance may be available to you.

Need Help?

If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, give Tax Defense Network a call. Our tax professionals can help you reconstruct financial records and put your life back together. We’ll also help you take advantage of any available tax relief options and file your tax returns. Schedule a free consultation today!