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Cleaning Up Your Records After Disaster Strikes

Posted by Cailey Taylor on Nov 1, 2018 9:00:00 AM

With severe weather season finally drawing to a close, thousands of people are still working to pick up after the storm. One thing taxpayers may need to do after disaster strikes is to reconstruct their financial records. This could help you prove your losses and have the necessary documents for tax purposes or for federal assistance. Here are some ways you can reconstruct your records after a disaster.

Tax Return Transcripts

If you are wanting copies of previous years’ tax returns for your records, the IRS can help with that. Taxpayers can get free federal tax return transcripts by using the Get Transcript tool on You can also call the IRS to order them by phone.

Proof of Loss

After disaster strikes, you will slowly start to pick up and clean your home or business. Before you do, it’s important to take pictures of all the damage your home or business received right away. As soon as it is safe, you should take pictures of all around your home and business and make sure to get all the damage, no matter how small it is. You can use those pictures to establish the extent of the damage. If you did, you can compare these photos to photos you have of your home and your business from beforehand. If you haven’t already, take pictures of the inside and outside of your home and business so you can use those to prove loss. If you don’t have photos or videos of your property, you should try to draw or list what items were in each room. That way you have an idea of items you need to replace or fix after you clean up. If you bought any of these items using a credit or debit card, you can gather past statements from the account to prove you bought the items. You can either use physical copies you still have or print off new statements online. Most financial institutions will keep the records for you.

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Property Records

If you are trying to get records regarding property you own, there are a few ways you can get those. You can contact the title company, the escrow company or the bank that handled the purchase of their home to get copies of the needed documents. If you made improvements or remodeled your home or business, you can contact the contractors or companies who did the work to try and get records of what you paid and what was done. You should get statements from them to verify the work and cost. If you aren’t able to do this, you can get written accounts from friends and relatives who saw the house before or after any improvements. If you can’t find any records at all, you can try checking the county assessor’s office for old records that might address the value of the property.

For cars, you can use either records you have from the sale of the car, insurance documents or use online resources to determine the current fair-market value of most cars. These resources include Kelley’s Blue Book, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Edmunds.

You can use the IRS’ Publication 584, the Casualty, Disaster and Theft Loss Workbook to help determine your losses.


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