The casualty, disaster, and theft tax deduction is becoming a popular tax relief for many taxpayers, especially with the bad weather that has hit various parts of the United States and as theft becomes more sophisticated with technological advancements. This relief for losses allows taxpayers who have undergone sudden losses through theft or accidents to get tax deductions for the losses.
History of the Disaster-Related Tax Deductions
Tax relief for business and individual losses goes far back beyond the current tax code. As far back as 1867, the then-tax laws allowed for victims of ship wrecks to claim deductions against such losses. Since then, the occurrence of various disaster and loss events has triggered the inclusion of other items to this loss relief law. In 1870, after the Harpers Ferry Flood, the tax code introduced floods as a deductible loss. In 1916, theft and other casualty losses were introduced into the law. Since then, the law has been adjusted to include losses for bank insolvency, different kinds of thefts (including ransom and information theft), and other bad weather disasters.
The Current Tax Code on Casualty and Disaster
The current law on the casualty, disaster, and theft tax deduction provides various qualifications for anyone seeking to make a claim. Some of these qualifying rules are provided below.
- Unprecedented Loss – For a loss to qualify for the deduction, it has to be sudden and unprecedented. Losses such as wear and tear or losses that occur gradually cannot qualify. The claim is available to both individuals and businesses. Some of the losses that will qualify include theft of personal property, ransom, accidents, losses from bad weather such as hurricanes, losses from volcanic activity, terrorist attacks, blackmail, identity theft, cyber hacking, loss of bank deposits through insolvent banks, and employee embezzlement.
- Net of Insurance – If the qualifying loss was insured at the time of event, the taxpayer cannot claim a deduction. However, if the insurance for whatever reason declines to make a reimbursement, you can go ahead and claim a deduction. If you get partial compensation, you can make a deduction on the uncompensated amount.
- Timing of Claim – A taxpayer making a claim for the loss deduction can only do so in the same year that the loss occurs. However, for Federally declared disaster areas, the taxpayers can make the claim up to the year preceding the disaster event.
- Itemized Deduction– Taxpayer seeking to make a deduction for the casualty, disaster, and theft claim can only do so if he or she itemizes deductions. In this case, one has to use Schedule A of the Form 1040. The taxpayer can only claim what is in excess of a $100 threshold and being an itemized deduction, one has to claim the itemized deduction amount that is above 10% of their Adjusted Gross Income.
The tax code has, over the years, introduced specific and temporary laws to provide extra relief for victims of specific catastrophes. Going forward, the casualty, disaster, and theft tax relief is set to keep changing even as theft, crime, and disaster takes new and various shapes as the years go by.