Protect yourself from natural disasters

Protect yourself from natural disasters


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently published a letter reminding taxpayers of National Hurricane Preparedness Week (April 30-May 6) and National Wildfire Awareness Month (May). Individuals should be prepared for natural disasters such as wildfires, mudslides, landslides, severe thunderstorms or tornadoes. A natural disaster is a devastating event that can have a lasting impact on you and your family. It is always good to be prepared and plan to protect your personal financial and tax information.

Key Documents Your initial priority should be protecting important documents. This may include recent tax returns, Social Security cards, birth certificates, deeds, insurance policies and medical records. These documents should be kept in a waterproof container in a secure location. You may want to make copies of the documents and store the digitized files on a portable external hard drive kept in a safe deposit box or entrusted to an individual in a different area.

Records of Your Valuables Many individuals own art, collectibles or other types of valuable personal property. It is recommended that you compile a list of your valuables and have photos or videos to catalogue the items. These photos or videos will help you support your claims for insurance proceeds or an applicable tax deduction. The IRS offers disaster loss publications for both individuals and businesses that need guidance in making a list of valuables. An individual should refer to Publication 584: Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook (Personal-Use Property). If you own a business, you may want to review Publication 584-B: Business Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook.

Reconstructing Records If you are a victim of a natural disaster, you may lose important financial or tax records. These could be required for federal assistance or insurance reimbursement. Many types of reimbursement require an accurate estimate of the amount of the loss. The Reconstructing Records page on is an excellent starting place if you need to rebuild your records.

Employer Fiduciary Bond Employers who use a payroll service provider should verify that there is a fiduciary bond in place. If the provider is in the natural disaster region, the organization may suffer a major business loss and default on its obligations. An employer may obtain a fiduciary bond that will protect it in the event of a disaster that causes the payroll service provider to default.

IRS Tax Relief Following a declaration of a disaster zone by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the IRS frequently postpones tax filing and payment deadlines, more information is available on the IRS Disaster Relief page on If you are in a federal disaster zone, you may qualify for filing and payment relief. Individuals who are not in the covered disaster area but are impacted by a specific disaster may still qualify for relief. If you wish to speak to a trained IRS specialist, you may call 866-562-5227 for answers to disaster-related concerns.

Note: Learn about the American Legion National Emergency Fund, and how it assists disaster victims, here.

The American Legion’s Planned Giving program is a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at Clicking on “Learn more” will bring up an “E-newsletter” button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.