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Be Prepared for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters

Now that we’re smack in the middle of summer, it might be a good idea to review some common-sense steps that can help you and your clients make a speedy recovery should a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster visit your area.

Use Electronic Records to Recover Data. Backups of data – whether it’s of your business data or that of your clients – become critical in recovery from a natural disaster.  Having a backup of all your practice’s data in the office is good, but having another copy off-site, in a secure location, is better.

Off-site storage could mean a bank safety deposit box on the other side of town, a water-tight container in another location, or cloud-based storage for the electronic files. An off-site backup gives you peace of mind if your main business location is heavily damaged or destroyed by storm or fire.

If your backup files are stored on a flash drive, you might want to make an additional copy on a CD or DVD, in case the flash drive falls victim to static electricity while in storage. And while you’re at it, make sure your backup includes scans of insurance policies and deeds you’ll need to prove ownership if your business location is destroyed.

Document Your Office. Take photos or videos of your business space, paying particular attention to the computers, office equipment and other assets you own in the office. This visual record can be used to prove your ownership of the equipment if the building is lost to disaster. Again, keep a copy in a separate location, in a place that’s as secure as possible.

Call the IRS for Help. You probably already know the IRS can give special concessions to locations that are declared a federal disaster area. This help includes extended deadlines for filing business and individual returns, and extensions on quarterly tax payments. Call the IRS Disaster Hotline at 866-562-5227 for special help with your disaster-related tax issues.

Get Copies of Prior Year Tax Records. Usually, to get a copy of a prior-year tax return, we’d file Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, and fork over the $50 fee. But if your county is declared a federal disaster area, the IRS waives the fee.

If you just need some line items from the return, the IRS now has its Get Transcript tool back online at www.irs.gov.

Bob Williams

Forget genes; I’ve got words in my DNA. Communication has been part of who I am nearly all my life. From a long career in radio news to another one in newspapers – and a University of Georgia journalism degree sandwiched between the two – language has been my life. I’ve also been fortunate to have learned the tax business from the ground up here at Drake, starting with 1040.com online forms some years ago before moving on to work on the Web. In all things tax-ish, we aim to give you tools you can use.

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