Saturday, September 4, 2010

Prepare for Hurricane Season by Reviewing Tax Rules on Casualty Losses

Source: IRS

Topic 515 - Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Losses

A casualty loss can result from the damage, destruction or loss of your property from any sudden, unexpected, or unusual event such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, earthquake or even volcanic eruption.

A theft is the taking and removing of money or property with the intent to deprive the owner of it. The taking must be illegal under the law of the state where it occurred and it must have been done with criminal intent.

If your property is not completely destroyed, or if it is personal-use property, the amount of your casualty or theft loss is the lesser of the adjusted basis of your property or the decrease in fair market value of your property as a result of the casualty or theft. The adjusted basis of your property is usually your cost, increased or decreased by certain events such as improvements or depreciation. For more information about the basis of property, refer to Topic 703, or Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts. You may determine the decrease in fair market value by appraisal or, if certain conditions are met, by the cost of repairing the property. For more information, refer to Publication 547. Keep in mind the general definition of fair market value is the price at which property would change hands between a buyer and seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all necessary facts.

If the property was held by you for personal-use, you must further reduce your loss by $100. This $100 reduction for losses of personal-use property applies to each casualty or theft event that occurred during the year. The total of all your casualty and theft losses of personal-use property must be further reduced by 10% of your adjusted gross income. In addition, individuals are required to claim their casualty and theft losses as an itemized deduction.

The National Disaster Relief Act of 2008 changed some of the tax rules pertaining to losses resulting from federally declared disasters. The new law, which is effective for losses attributable to disasters federally declared in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2007, and before January 1, 2010, provides the following:

  • Allows all taxpayers, not just those who itemize, to claim the net disaster loss deduction regardless of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income
  • Removes the 10 percent of adjusted gross income limitation for net disaster losses
  • Provides a 5-year net operating loss (NOL) carryback for qualified disaster losses
  • Changes the amount by which all individual taxpayers must reduce their personal casualty or theft losses for each casualty or theft event from $100 to $500. This applies to deductions claimed in 2009. The reduction amount returns to $100 for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2009

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