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Disaster Assistance Self-Study and Resource Guide

Instructions for Taking This Course

This course gives a general overview of the information you will need to know to effectively carry out your duties as a disaster assistance representative. The IRS publications and other resources cited in this course give in-depth information on the issues covered.

The course has links to various forms and documents to assist in your learning. The links can be accessed by clicking the blue hyperlinks. The form or document, usually in PDF format, can be navigated, printed, or saved.

Throughout the course are knowledge checks and an exercise to test your comprehension of that topic.

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Describe the materials contained in the Disaster Kits and other resources available for distribution to disaster victims
  • Determine the appropriate amount of Casualty Loss/Gain to claim.
  • List the sources to use to reconstruct records.
  • Describe the taxability of various disaster payments.
  • List the steps to recover lost or destroyed tax returns.
  • List some of the psychological reactions to disasters.
  • Describe how to help yourself/others in a disaster.

Disaster Assistance

The most important objective after any disaster is to inform individuals of the assistance available and to assist in the application and delivery process. Information is disseminated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through radio, television, newspapers, and the mass distribution of pamphlets as well as through outreach teams and toll-free telephone hotlines.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act provides for the detail of Federal employees to participate in FEMA coordinated activities. To make it easier for individuals to get information and obtain the help available from the Federal, State, local and volunteer agencies, FEMA may establish Disaster Recovery Centers in the disaster area. Representatives from federal departments and agencies, state and local governments, private relief agencies, and other organizations which can provide assistance or counseling are available to register and advise disaster victims. These centers are kept in operation as long as required.

Disaster Assistance – State Disaster Assistance Coordinators

State Disaster Assistance Coordinators (SDACs) will determine the need to assign disaster assistance representatives to assist victims with the following activities:

  • Distribution of disaster kits.
  • Advice about reconstructing lost financial records.
  • Tax counseling on the determination of deductible casualty losses.
  • Preparing original and/or amended tax returns to claim disaster losses.
  • Securing copies of tax returns or tax return transcripts without charge.
  • Preparation of Form W-4 to change withholding allowances.

Disaster Assistance – Purpose

Disaster assistance representatives are needed to provide tax assistance to disaster victims at FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in federally declared disaster areas.

Disaster Resource Guide

Publication 2194 (PDF), Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses contain information to assist taxpayers affected by a federally declared disaster and can help to claim casualty losses on property that was damaged or destroyed. When a federally declared disaster occurs in predominately farm areas, Publication 225 (PDF), Farmers Tax Guide should also be made available.

The guide contains Publication 584 (PDF), Casualty, Disaster or Theft Loss Workbook (Personal Use Property) and Publication 584-B (PDF), Business Casualty, Disaster, or Theft Loss Workbook. Both are useful tools that can help the taxpayer compile a list of all personal and non-real estate items that were lost in the disaster.

In addition to the Disaster Resource Guide, Disaster Assistance Representative members should bring the following supplies to the FEMA site:

  • Form 4442, Inquiry Referral
  • Red ink pens
  • Scratch paper
  • Calculator

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