When one hears of a hurricane threat or other severe weather warning, often times the natural reaction is to go into planning mode. People generally make sure that they have enough food for a certain length of time, cars are filled up with gas, the generator is in working order and important belongings and documents are packed up to grab quickly in the case of evacuation. However, other than a possible trip to the bank to withdraw extra cash to have on hand and making sure that credit cards are handy, financial planning for such disasters is often unheard of.
The IRS, not often thought of as the go to place for assistance, does offer financial relief to taxpayers for casualty losses. However, in order to benefit, one must file an insurance claim timely. The taxpayer is responsible for providing an appraisal of the fair market value of the damaged property immediately before and after the loss. It is important to consider items of value in addition to a house, such as artwork, collectibles, electronics, etc. The value of the loss(es) can also be supported by the amount that is incurred to repair the damaged property as long as it is brought back to the same state as it was before the damage(s) took place. The preservation cannot be disproportionate to the loss or unwarranted and must not amount to more than the fair market value of the property before the disaster.
To claim a loss in the year of occurrence, one would do so on their individual tax return. To calculate the deductible amount, take the difference of the fair market value before and after the loss, less $100 per casualty, less any reimbursement received by the insurance company. Then, reduce that amount by 10% of your adjusted gross income. The result is the portion of the loss which is deductible on your tax return. There are other considerations to take into account though, including, but not limited to, basis, multiple losses and whether there is a reasonable chance of recovery. Additionally, be aware that if reimbursement from the insurance company is received subsequent to filing the tax return, the reimbursement should be recognized as income to you in the year in which it is received.
The treatment for deducting losses in connection with hurricanes and other natural disasters goes beyond the general overview of what is being shared here. In fact, the rules change and more options are available when a loss occurs under a declared federal disaster. Business losses also must be considered and reporting for relief is done so differently than for individuals. If faced with the unfortunate situation of incurring any type of casualty loss, it is best to reach out to your CPA.
If the proper steps are not taken ahead of time, maximizing the relief of losses can be challenging and limiting. Please plan properly for hurricanes and other natural disasters. Not doing so will complicate your ability to financially recover from your loss!
Lenore C. Sanchez, CPA