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It’s good practice for everyone, but particularly those living in hurricane, fire, flood and other areas prone to natural disasters: Make sure your financial, tax and other important records are stored in a safe place, away from danger of natural disasters or other harm.

What Information to Safeguard

It is a good idea to store all of your financial, tax and insurance-related documents that are difficult to replace. Your basic records, those that show your income and expenses, and those related to your investments and your home, are critical; copies should be kept in a safe and secure place. For example, W-2s, home closing statements, insurance records, bank statements, invoices and receipts, and brokerage or mutual fund statements should all be safeguarded, as should copies of your tax returns.

Other important information to safeguard may include:

  • Alimony documentation Child Care Credit identification
  • Charitable Contribution Receipts Medical Savings Account information
  • Mortgage Interest Statements Pension/Annuity information
  • Casualty/Theft records Education Expenses
  • Credit or Exemption information Business Use of your Home documentation

Why to Safeguard Information

Keeping copies of your documents in a safe place will help protect your financial, tax, insurance and other information in the event of a natural disaster, theft or other loss. Documents that are difficult to replace can cost you time and money in recreating the information to prove income, property value, investment and insurance coverage.

Safe record keeping is a good idea, even without the threat of a natural disaster. You may need certain documents for insurance purposes, or in applying for a loan. You may also need documents that prove your payments and your income and expenses. The IRS recommends that, for tax purposes, you keep records and supporting documents until the period of limitations is complete, at least 3 years. Other entities, such as creditors or insurance companies, may require that you keep records for longer periods.

If you are in a hurricane or other disaster area, you may want to photograph the contents of your home or office, so that you have a record of items of value in the event that disaster strikes. The photos will help insurers determine market value for your belongings, when compiling casualty loss claims.

How and Where to Safeguard the Information

New technologies make it easier to keep records secure, and allow them to be stored electronically, away from your home or office. You may receive your bank statements and other documents by e-mail, which you can save into electronic files. You may also scan the hard copies of other files and documents, to secure in an electronic format. Once saved, your financial and other records can be e-mailed or stored on a CD or DVD and sent to a relative or friend for safekeeping.

If you don’t store information electronically, you may make hard copies of relevant documents, and store them with relatives or friends. If you are in a natural disaster zone, you should store all documents in locations away from the danger area so that you can retrieve them quickly when needed.

Additional Resources

For more information about Safeguarding your Important Records, please check the following:

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