As a business person, you have contingency plans for just about everything, true? Almost. When disaster strikes, news organizations often post a list of things you need to do now to protect yourself, your family and your assets. The problem is that t's often too late.
How quickly you and your company can get back to business after a tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster depends on emergency planning you do today.
Headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, I can tell you first hand that the Atlantic hurricane season begins this month, in June, and runs until the end of November. I've lived through many storms. How well you prepare now will impact not only your tax liability next year, it can affect your financial situation for years to come. By taking steps before disaster strikes, you can be in a better position to file claims and rebuild your life after a catastrophic event.
Here are 3 important tips:
1. Keep Electronic Copies of Important Documents - Keeping copies of your records has never been easier, thanks to technology, but you would be surprised at how any people don't. Very simply, keep a duplicate set of your key documents like bank statements, tax returns and insurance policies in a safe place. If you file with my company, we'll keep a copy of your tax return for you.
When choosing a place to keep your records, pick somewhere outside your home and, possibly, outside of your region. Remember, a disaster that strikes your house is also likely to hit other facilities nearby. That could make quick retrieval of your records difficult.
The good news is that most financial institutions now provide statements electronically. If original documents are available only on paper, make sure to scan them into an electronic format and store them on DVD, CD or cloud storage.
2. Document All of Your Valuables -- The IRS has a good tool to help with this. The disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, can help you compile a room-by-room list of your belongings.
It's a good idea to photograph or videotape what's in your home, especially the most valuable items. Photos can help establish the fair market value of your possessions. Not only does this help with tax benefits, it will make it easier for you to file casualty loss claims for insurance benefits.
Plus, if you accurately estimate your losses, you may be eligible for more loan and grant money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration aid.
3. Numbers to Keep Handy for Help - Besides keeping your tax pro's number saved in your phone, along with your insurance agent, in the case of a federally-declared disaster, you can call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.
I often say there are 3 certainties in life: death, taxes and change. After 48 years in the tax industry I can also say with certainty that no one skates through life. Because a disaster can strike any time, be sure to review emergency plans every year.
When the unexpected happens, you'll be ready.