10 Tips for Deducting a Disaster Loss
If you suffer damages to your home or personal property, you may be able to deduct the loss on your federal income tax return. If your area receives a federal disaster designation, you may be able to claim the loss sooner.
Ordinarily, a deduction is available only if the loss is major and not covered by insurance or other reimbursement.
Here are 10 tips for deducting casualty losses:
- Casualty loss: A casualty is a sudden, unexpected or unusual event. This may include natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. It can also include losses from fires, accidents, thefts or vandalism
- Normal wear and tear: A casualty loss does not include losses from normal wear and tear. It does not include progressive deterioration from age or termite damage.
- Covered by insurance: If you insured your property, you must file a timely claim for reimbursement of your loss. If you don’t, you cannot deduct the loss as a casualty or theft. You must reduce the loss by the amount of the reimbursement you receive or expect to receive.
- When to deduct: Generally, you deduct a casualty loss in the year it occurred. However, if you have a loss from a federally declared disaster, you may have a choice of when to deduct the loss. You can choose to deduct it on your return for the year the loss occurred or on an original or amended return for the immediately preceding tax year.
This means that if a disaster loss occurs in 2017, you don’t need to wait until the end of the year to claim the loss. Instead, you can choose to claim the loss on your 2016 return. Claiming a disaster loss on the prior year's return may result in a lower tax for that year and could result in a refund.
- Amount of loss: Use the following steps to figure the amount of your loss:
- Determine the adjusted basis in the property before the casualty. For property a your buy, the basis is usually what you paid for the property. For property you acquire in some other way, such as inheriting it or getting it as a gift, the basis is determined differently.
- Determine the decrease in fair market value (FMV) of the property as a result of the casualty. FMV is the price for which a person could sell their property to a willing buyer. The decrease in FMV is the difference between the property's FMV immediately before and immediately after the casualty.
- Subtract any insurance or other reimbursement you received or are expecting to receive from the smaller of the two amounts (b) above.
- $100 rule: After figuring the casualty loss on personal-use property, reduce that loss by $100. This reduction applies to each casualty-loss event during the year. It does not matter how many pieces of property are involved in an event.
- 10 percent rule: Reduce the total of all your casualty or theft losses on personal-use property for the year by 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.
- Future income. Do not consider the loss of future profits or income due to the casualty
- Form 4684. Complete Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, to report the casualty loss on a federal tax return. Claim the deductible amount on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
- Business or income property. Some of the casualty loss rules for business or income property are different from the rules for property held for personal use.