Tips to reconstruct your records to prove loss of vehicles or business property

Reconstructing records after a disaster may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance or insurance reimbursement. Records that you need to prove your loss may have been damaged or destroyed in a casualty. While it may not be easy, reconstructing your records may be essential for:

  • Tax purposes – You may need to reconstruct your records to prove you have a casualty loss and the amount of the loss. To compute your casualty loss, you need to determine: 1) the decrease in value of the property as a result of the casualty and 2) the adjusted basis of the property (usually the cost of the property and improvements). You may deduct the smaller of these two amounts, minus insurance or other reimbursement.

If you repair damage caused by the casualty, or spend money for cleaning up, keep the repair bills and any other records of what was done and how much it cost. You cannot deduct these costs, but you can use them as a measure of the decrease in fair market value caused by the casualty if the repairs are actually made, are not excessive, are necessary to bring the property back to its condition before the casualty, take care of the damage only, and do not cause the property to be worth more than before the casualty.

  • Insurance reimbursement.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration aid – The more accurately you estimate your loss, the more loan and grant money there may be available to you.

The following tips may help to reconstruct your records to prove loss of vehicles or business property:


Kelley’s Blue Book, NADA and Edmunds are available on-line and at most libraries. They are good sources for the current fair market value of most vehicles on the road.

  • Call the dealer and ask for a copy of the contract. If not available, give the dealer all the facts and details and ask for a comparable price figure.
  • Use newspaper ads for the period in which the vehicle was purchased to determine cost basis. Use ads for the period when it was destroyed for fair market value. Be sure to keep copies of the ads.
  • If you’re still making payments, check with your lien holder.

Business Records

  • Inventories – Get copies of invoices from suppliers. Whenever possible, the invoices should date back at least one calendar year.
  • Income – Get copies of bank statements. The deposits should closely reflect what the sales were for any given time period.
    • Obtain copies of last year’s federal, state and local tax returns including sales tax reports, payroll tax returns and business licenses (from city or county). These will reflect gross sales for a given time period.
  • Furniture and fixtures – Sketch an outline of the inside and outside of the business location. Then start to fill in the details of the sketches. (Inside the building — what equipment was where; if a store, where were the products/inventory located. Outside the building — shrubs, parking, signs, awnings, etc.)
    • If you purchased an existing business, go back to the broker for a copy of the purchase agreement. This should detail what was acquired.
    • If the building was constructed for you, contact the contractor for building plans or the county/city planning commissions for copies of any plans.

For any assistance and additional information, reach IRS Disaster Assistance Hotline at 1-866-562-5227 (Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time)