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Text Script of Audio Interview on Disaster Assistance

Branscome: Hi, everybody.  I'm Theresa Branscome from the Internal Revenue Service.  You know, disasters can strike at any time, but as it turns out, there are a lot of things you can do to safeguard yourself when it comes to your tax records.  And here to talk to us about this is my colleague Rob Marvin.  He is a media-relations specialist at the IRS.  Rob, thanks for joining us. 

Marvin: Thanks for having me. 

Branscome: Well, first of all, what is the most important thing people should do? 

 Marvin: Well, the most important thing that you need to do is create a backup set of records in electronic format, and you want to keep them in a safe place away from the original documents. 

Branscome: So, what records are you talking about? 

Marvin: We mean things like bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies -- things like that.  And what you want to do is you want to download them onto a backup storage device, such as an external hard drive or DVD or a CD. 

Branscome: All right.  And what if you have an institution that only gives you paper statements?  What do you do then? 

Marvin: Well, to create the electronic document, what you would do is you could scan the paper version in.  And a lot of printers these days have built-in scanners, so it's pretty easy. 

Branscome: Like those all-in-one printers, right? 

Marvin: Exactly. 

Branscome: Okay.  Is that all you need to do? 

Marvin: Well, another thing you can do is photograph or videotape the contents of your home.  And what you want to do is you want to focus on the items of greatest value. 

Branscome: Okay. 

Marvin: And the IRS has a workbook that can help you go through this whole process.  It's called the "Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook.”  It's Publication 584.  And it can help you do a room-by-room inventory -- photographic inventory of all your belongings. 

Branscome: Okay.  So, say you have this inventory.  What do you do then? 

Marvin: Well, the photos also should be stored with a family member or friend who lives outside of your area, someone who wouldn't be caught in the same disaster as you are. 

Branscome: Gotcha.  All right, well, what if -- worst-case scenario -- despite all your best efforts or lack of efforts, you lose your records?  What do you do then? 

Marvin: Well, the IRS is there to help you in that case.  And what we have is a disaster hotline.  And you can call that toll-free number.  It's 1-866-562-5227. 

Branscome: Can you say that number again in case anyone wants to write this down? 

Marvin: Sure.  It's 1-866-562-5227. 

Branscome: And this is a special hotline just for disaster-related issues, right? 

Marvin: Right.  It's a hotline where you can talk to someone about disaster-related issues.  You can also get back copies of your tax returns and all the attachments.  And there's no charge if you are in a federal disaster area, qualifying for individual assistance. 

Branscome: So, what if you are in a federal disaster area?  What should you be doing? 

Marvin: Well, one place you can go to get more information is the IRS Website, irs.gov. 

Branscome: Okay. 

Marvin: And we will post important information about the disaster maybe on the home page, or another way to find some information is to search for the word "disaster” on the Website, and the information will come up. 

Branscome: Okay.  Well, Rob, thank you so much for this information. 

Marvin: Thank you for having me.  And it's always best to be prepared for a disaster. 

Branscome: You're absolutely right.  Well, thank you.  And thank you all for joining us.  I'm Theresa Branscome.  Learn how you can be prepared by going to the IRS's official Website, irs.gov, keyword "disaster.” 

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 21-Oct-2014