Reconstructing Records After a Natural Disaster

Post Date: 10/23/17
Last Updated: 10/23/17


Cross References
- FS-2017-11, September 2017

Reconstructing records after a disaster may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. After a disaster, taxpayers might need certain records to prove their loss. The more accurately the loss is estimated, the more loan and grant money there may be available.

For taxpayers who have lost some or all of their records during a disaster, there are some simple steps to take that can help. The IRS recently posted the following information on their website that includes the steps to take after a disaster so that taxpayers can reconstruct their records and prove loss of personal-use and business property.

Tax Records
- Get free return transcripts immediately by visiting the Get Transcript tool on
- To order transcripts by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts.
- To get transcripts of previous years returns by mail, file a Form 4506-T, Request for Transcripts of a Tax Return.
- To request copies of past returns by mail, file Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return.
- Write the appropriate disaster designation, such as "HURRICANE HARVEY," in red letters across the top of Forms 4506-T and 4506 to expedite processing and to waive the normal user fee.

Personal Residence and Real Property
- Take photographs or videos as soon after the disaster as possible. This helps establish the extent of the damage.
- Contact the title company, escrow company or bank that handled the purchase of the home to get copies of appropriate documents. Real estate brokers may also be able to help.
- Use the current property tax statement for land-versus-building ratios if available. 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 within the same neighborhood. This information 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 they may have about cost or fair market value in the area.
- Review insurance policies, as they usually list the value of a building, establishing a base figure for replacement value insurance.

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