Checklist for Document and Tax Info in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster

With blazing wildfires, searing heat, strong hurricanes, along with a global pandemic, 2020 can be safely described as having an active crisis season. Reconstructing lost records and filling tax returns may not be on top of most people’s to-do lists in the wake of such events. But both are crucial for an assortment of reasons, including reimbursement from an insurer, receiving federal help, and reporting losses on a tax return.


  • After a natural disaster, it’s crucial to reconstruct lost records for reimbursement from an insurance carrier, obtain national support, and report losses on a tax return.
  • The IRS generally allows for late filing of tax returns along with late payment of taxes for those in affected areas.
  • States usually fall in line with national extensions in the wake of disaster.

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Be Mindful of Postponed Federal Tax Deadlines

Here’s the latest info in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on getting more time to file certain returns and make certain payments.

Victims of Hurricane Sally, which began on Sept. 14, are being granted a postponement to record various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments. This tax relief offers affected individuals and companies till Jan. 15, 2021, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due in this period. This means individuals who had a valid extension to file their 2019 return due to run out on Oct. 15, 2020, will now have until Jan. 15, 2021, to record. Notice, however, that because tax payments related to these 2019 yields were due on July 15, 2020, these payments are not eligible for this relief, according to the IRS.1 2

Quarterly estimated income tax payments due on Sept. 15 and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on Nov. 2 also fall under the January deadline. Tax-exempt organizations that operate on a calendar-year base and had a legal expansion due to run out on Nov. 16 may use the new deadline, and businesses with extensions have the additional time including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2019 extensions operate outside on Oct. 15.1

The IRS disaster relief page has details on other returns, payments, and tax-related actions that qualify for the excess time.3

What About the States?

States usually fall in line with national extensions in the wake of disasters,”especially when the disaster is in that particular state,” says David A. Shuster, principal and director of tax controversy services from the Manhattan-based accounting firm Friedman. But he warns,”a taxpayer situated in a crisis condition but [with] a filing obligation in another state might find that such other nation has given no general relief for taxpayers located in the crisis state”

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According to Shuster, many nations typically grant relief from penalties regarding a missed deadline if there’s reasonable cause for missing that deadline, and a catastrophe is usually regarded as a reasonable cause. “Procedurally, some nations might need a notation on the late filing, or an explanation accompany that filing, suggesting that its delinquency is conducive to a catastrophe,” he adds. “In different cases the taxpayer should just make the delinquent filing and react to a penalty notice with a reasonable cause explanation.”

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Assembling and Re-Creating Records

More time consuming and complicated than obtaining an extension on filing taxes is reconstructing records after a disaster. People who are the victims of a natural catastrophe need to assemble the documentation for real property, personal property, and vehicles. Businesses need to make a list of shares which are lost. It’s all necessary for a number of reasons, including insurance reimbursement and taxation. Most important, records can help people establish their disaster-related losses. Accurately estimated losses may create greater recovery assistance, including grants or loans.

The main disasters in question are fires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, due to the acute lack of property and life they could cause, states Timothy P. Speiss, a CPA at accounting firm EisnerAmper and co-chair of Personal Wealth Advisors Practice. “Power outages are becoming more common and severe, as are health emergencies,” he adds.

“Fire is the most likely the worst, since files might wind up being permanently destroyed,” says Shuster. “By comparison, a flood might merely ruin documents, but they might be salvageable to some extent.”

Fires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes are the key disasters. Since files can end up permanently destroyed, fire is probably the most serious.

Items to Know About Records and Where to Get Them

Recent documents are usually easier to replace than older ones, says Shuster, because the issuers will most likely have their own record-retention coverages . Plenty of women and men think anything older than seven or eight years can be lost, he says, but cautions that”these docs shouldn’t be lost if they relate to cost basis for land that hasn’t been sold, or the statute of limitations on assessment for a return covering the sale has not yet expired.” Here are a couple of places to go looking.

IRS Get Transcript Service

The Get Transcript Service on the IRS site allows individual citizens to recoup their own transcripts by mail or online. There is absolutely no cost.4 You may also call the automated phone transcript support of the IRS in 800-908-9946 to buy a tax return or tax account transcript to be sent by email.5

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Financial Institutions and Involved Parties

People have the ability to collect past financial statements from their credit card company or bank. Some records may be available online for people with access to an online account. Individuals can also contact their lender to find paper copies of these statements.

“For any records associated with property, homeowners can contact the title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of their home or other property,” states Speiss. “For inherited land, taxpayers can check court records for probate values. If a trust or estate existed, taxpayers can speak to the attorney who handled the assurance.” When no additional documents are available, people will need to inspect the county assessor’s office for older records which might take care of the value of their house.

Builders and contractors

Some records are more commonly overlooked, Shuster says, such as”those bearing on home improvements–contractor invoices, contracts, and proof of payment for such developments.” In case you have made home improvements, Speiss recommends getting in touch with the contractors that did the job. “Request statements to validate the work and cost,” he explained. Homeowners may also get written descriptions from friends and relatives who watched the house before and after any improvements.

Real Property

Real property, also known as”property ,” is land and anything built on, growing on, or attached to said property, states Speiss. “Contact the title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of the home to receive copies of appropriate documents,” he continues. “Real estate brokers may also have the capacity to assist.” Other strategies include:

  • Use the current real estate tax statement for floor area ratios when possible. If they are not available, owners can usually get copies from the county assessor’s office.
  • Establish a basis or fair market value of the home by reviewing comparable sales in the same neighborhood. This info can be found by contacting an appraisal company or visiting a website that provides home valuations.
  • Check with the mortgage company for copies of appraisals or other information it might have concerning cost or fair market value in the area.
  • Contact insurance companies that issued coverage for the related documents.
  • Review insurance policies, as they generally list the value of a structure, establishing a base figure for replacement value insurance.

When improvements were made to the home, reach out to the contractors who did the work to learn if records are available. “If possible, get statements from the contractors confirming their job and cost,” says Speiss. Get written accounts from friends and relatives who watched the house before and after any improvements. See if any of them have photos taken at get-togethers.

When there’s a home improvement loan, get paperwork from the institution that issued the loan. The complete quantity of the loan will help determine the cost of the improvements. If no additional records are available, check the county assessor’s office for older records which might take care of the value of the property.

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Personal Property

“It can be difficult to reconstruct records showing the fair market value of Many types of personal property,” states Speiss, who recommends taking these steps when cataloguing lost items and their values:

  • Look on mobile phones for pictures shot in the house that may show the damaged land in the background before the disaster.
  • Check websites that might help determine the cost and reasonable market value of lost items.
  • Support the test with photographs, videos, canceled checks, receipts, or other evidence.
  • Contact the credit card company or bank for preceding statements if items were bought with a credit or debit card. Credit card companies and banks often provide access to these statements online.

“If there are no videos or pictures of the home, a very simple procedure to recall what items were lost is to sketch images of every room that was changed,” says Speiss. “These don’t have to be drawn, just sensible.”

  • Bring a furniture floor plan for each chamber showing where each bit was put. Contain drawers, dressers, and shelves.
  • Sketch pictures of the space looking toward any shelves or tables and show their contents.
  • Additionally sketch less prominent regions of the home , such as garages, attics, closets, bathrooms, and things hanging on walls.


Several resources will help determine the current fair market value of nearly all cars on the road. These tools are available online and in most libraries.

  • Kelley Blue Book is a car valuation and automotive research company.6
  • The National Automobile Dealers Association is a trade organization representing franchised new car and truck dealerships.7
  • Edmunds is an online resource for automotive information.8

“Additionally, call the dealer where the car was purchased and ask for a copy of the contract,” states Speiss. “If this is not available, give the dealer all the details and facts and ask a similar price figure. If making payments on the vehicle, check with the lien holder”

The Bottom Line

In the wake of a natural disaster, assembling paperwork and filing taxes are not likely to be among your major impulses. Nevertheless, in order to recover as completely as possible in the injury, you need to be documenting its range and cost in order to find state and federal support. There are an range of strategies to rebuild lost documentation which is, indeed, not missing. Use these to the fullest extent possible.

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