To determine your deduction
for a casualty or theft loss, you must first figure your loss.
Amount of loss.
Figure the amount of your loss using the following steps.
- Determine your adjusted basis in the property
before the casualty or theft.
- Determine the decrease in fair market value (FMV)
of the property as a result of the casualty or theft.
- From the smaller of the amounts you determined in (1) and
(2), subtract any insurance or other reimbursement you
received or expect to receive.
For personal-use property and property used in performing
services as an employee, apply the deduction limits, discussed later,
to determine the amount of your deductible loss.
Gain from reimbursement.
If your reimbursement is more than your adjusted basis in the
property, you have a gain. This is true even if the decrease in the
FMV of the property is more than your adjusted basis. If you have a
gain, you may have to pay tax on it, or you may be able to postpone
reporting the gain. See Figuring a Gain, later.
Business or income-producing property.
If you have
business or income-producing property, such as rental property, and it
is stolen or completely destroyed, the decrease in FMV is not
considered. Your loss is figured as follows:
Loss of inventory.
You can claim a casualty or theft loss of inventory, including
items you hold for sale to customers, through the increase in the cost
of goods sold by properly reporting your opening and closing
inventories. Do not claim this loss again as a casualty or theft loss.
If you take the loss through the increase in the cost of goods sold,
include any insurance or other reimbursement you receive for the loss
in gross income.
You can choose to deduct the loss separately. If you deduct it
separately, eliminate the items from cost of goods sold by making a
downward adjustment to opening inventory or purchases. Reduce the loss
by the reimbursement you received. Do not include the reimbursement in
gross income. If you do not receive the reimbursement by the end of
the year, you may not claim a loss to the extent you have a reasonable
prospect of recovery.
If you are liable for casualty
damage to property you lease, your loss is the amount you must pay to
repair the property minus any insurance or other reimbursement you
receive or expect to receive.
Generally, if a single casualty or theft involves more than one
item of property, you must figure the loss on each item separately.
Then combine the losses to determine the total loss from that casualty
Exception for personal-use real property.
In figuring a casualty loss on personal-use real property, the
entire property (including any improvements, such as buildings, trees,
and shrubs) is treated as one item. Figure the loss using the smaller
of the following.
- The decrease in FMV of the entire property.
- The adjusted basis of the entire property.
See the discussion for real property under Figuring the
Fair Market Value
Fair market value (FMV)
is the price for which you could
sell your property to a willing buyer when neither of you has to sell
or buy and both of you know all the relevant facts.
The decrease in FMV is the difference between the property's fair
market value immediately before and immediately after the casualty or
FMV of stolen property.
The FMV of property immediately after a theft is considered to be
zero since you no longer have the property.
Several years ago, you purchased silver dollars at face value for
$150. This is your adjusted basis in the property. Your silver dollars
were stolen this year. The FMV of the coins was $1,000 when stolen,
and insurance did not cover them. Your theft loss is $150.
Recovered stolen property.
Recovered property is your property that was stolen and later
returned to you. If you recovered property after you had already taken
a theft loss deduction, you must refigure your loss using the smaller
of the property's adjusted basis (explained later) or the decrease in
FMV from the time it was stolen until the time it was recovered. Use
this amount to refigure your total loss for the year in which the loss
If your refigured loss is less than the loss you deducted, you
generally have to report the difference as income in the recovery
year. But report the difference only up to the amount of the loss that
reduced your tax. For more information on the amount to report, see
Recoveries in Publication 525.
Figuring Decrease in FMV -- Items To Consider
To figure the decrease in FMV because of a casualty or theft, you
generally need a competent appraisal. But other measures can also be
used to establish certain decreases. See Appraisal and
Cost of cleaning up or making repairs, next.
An appraisal to determine the difference between the FMV of the
property immediately before a casualty or theft and immediately
afterwards should be made by a competent appraiser. The appraiser must
recognize the effects of any general market decline that may occur
along with the casualty. This information is needed to limit any
deduction to the actual loss resulting from damage to the property.
Several factors are important in evaluating the accuracy of an
appraisal, including the following.
- The appraiser's familiarity with your property before and
after the casualty or theft.
- The appraiser's knowledge of sales of comparable property in
- The appraiser's knowledge of conditions in the area of the
- The appraiser's method of appraisal.
You may be able to use an appraisal that you used to get a federal
loan (or a federal loan guarantee) as the result of a Presidentially
declared disaster to establish the amount of your disaster loss. For
more information on disasters, see Disaster Area Losses,
The appraisal fee is not a part of the casualty or theft loss. It
is an expense in determining your tax liability. You can deduct your
appraisal fees as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the
2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit on Schedule A (Form 1040).
Cost of cleaning up or making repairs.
The cost of repairing damaged property is not part of a casualty
loss. Neither is the cost of cleaning up after a casualty. But you can
use the cost of cleaning up or of making repairs after a casualty as a
measure of the decrease in FMV if you actually had the repairs made
and you meet all the following conditions.
- The repairs are necessary to bring the property back to its
condition before the casualty.
- The amount spent for repairs is not excessive.
- The repairs take care of the damage only.
- The value of the property after the repairs is not, due to
the repairs, more than the value of the property before the
The cost of restoring landscaping to its original condition after a
casualty may indicate the decrease in FMV. You may be able to measure
your loss by what you spend on the following.
- Removing destroyed or damaged trees and shrubs, minus any
salvage you receive.
- Pruning and other measures taken to preserve damaged trees
- Replanting necessary to restore the property to its
approximate value before the casualty.
Books issued by various automobile organizations that list your car
may be useful in figuring the value of your car. You can use the
books' retail values and modify them by factors such as the mileage
and condition of your car to figure its value. The prices are not
"official," but they may be useful in determining value and
suggesting relative prices for comparison with current sales and
offerings in your area. If your car is not listed in the books,
determine its value from other sources. A dealer's offer for your car
as a trade-in on a new car is not usually a measure of its true value.
Figuring Decreases in FMV -- Items Not To Consider
You generally should not consider the following items when
attempting to establish the decrease in FMV of your property.
Cost of protection.
The cost of protecting
your property against a casualty or theft is not part of a casualty or
theft loss. The amount you spend on insurance or to board up your
house against a storm is not part of your loss. If the property is
business property, these expenses are deductible as business expenses.
If you make permanent improvements to your property to protect it
against a casualty or theft, add the cost of these improvements to
your basis in the property. An example would be the cost of a dike to
The incidental expenses due to a casualty or theft, such as
expenses for the treatment of personal injuries, for temporary
housing, or for a rental car, are not part of your casualty or theft
loss. However, they may be deductible as business expenses if the
damaged or stolen property is business property.
The cost of replacing stolen or destroyed property is not part of a
casualty or theft loss.
You bought a new chair 4 years ago for $300. In April, a fire
destroyed the chair. You estimate that it would cost $500 to replace
it. If you had sold the chair before the fire, you estimate that you
could have received only $100 for it because it was 4 years old. The
chair was not insured. Your loss is $100, the FMV of the chair before
the fire. It is not $500, the replacement cost.
Do not consider sentimental value when determining your loss. If a
family portrait, heirloom, or keepsake is damaged, destroyed, or
stolen, you must base your loss only on its fair market value.
Decline in market value of property in or near casualty area.
A decrease in the value of your property because it is in or near
an area that suffered a casualty, or that might again suffer a
casualty, is not to be taken into consideration. You have a loss only
for actual casualty damage to your property. However, if your home is
in a federally declared disaster area, see Disaster Area Losses,
Photographs taken after a casualty will be helpful in establishing
the condition and value of the property after it was damaged.
Photographs showing the condition of the property after it was
repaired, restored, or replaced may also be helpful.
The cost of photographs obtained for this purpose is not a part of
the loss. It is an expense in determining your tax liability. You can
claim this cost as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the
2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit on Schedule A (Form 1040).
The measure of your investment in the property you own is
basis. For property you buy, your basis is usually its cost
to you. For property you acquire in some other way, such as inheriting
it, receiving it as a gift, or getting it in a nontaxable exchange,
you must figure your basis in another way, as explained in Publication 551.
Adjustments to basis.
While you own the property,
various events may take place that change your basis. Some events,
such as additions or permanent improvements to the property, increase
basis. Others, such as earlier casualty losses and depreciation
deductions, decrease basis. When you add the increases to the basis
and subtract the decreases from the basis, the result is your
adjusted basis. See Publication 551
for more information on
figuring the basis of your property.
If you receive an insurance or other type of reimbursement, you
must subtract the reimbursement when you figure your loss. You do not
have a casualty or theft loss to the extent you are reimbursed.
If you expect to be reimbursed for part or all of your loss, you
must subtract the expected reimbursement when you figure your loss.
You must reduce your loss even if you do not receive payment until a
later tax year. See Reimbursement Received After Deducting Loss,
Failure to file a claim for reimbursement.
If your property is covered by insurance you should file a timely
insurance claim for reimbursement of your loss. Otherwise, you cannot
deduct this loss as a casualty or theft.
The portion of the loss usually not covered by insurance (for
example, a deductible) is not subject to this rule.
You have a car insurance policy with a $500 deductible. Because
your insurance did not cover the first $500 of an auto collision, the
$500 would be deductible (subject to the $100 and 10% rules discussed
later). This is true, even if you do not file an insurance claim,
because your insurance policy would never have reimbursed you for the
Types of Reimbursements
The most common type of reimbursement is an insurance payment for
your stolen or damaged property. Other types of reimbursements are
discussed next. Also see the Instructions for Form 4684.
Employer's emergency disaster fund.
If you receive money from your employer's emergency disaster fund
and you must use that money to rehabilitate or replace property on
which you are claiming a casualty loss deduction, you must take that
money into consideration in computing the casualty loss deduction.
Take into consideration only the amount you used to replace your
destroyed or damaged property.
Your home was extensively damaged by a tornado. Your loss after
reimbursement from your insurance company was $10,000. Your employer
set up a disaster relief fund for its employees. Employees receiving
money from the fund had to use it to rehabilitate or replace their
damaged or destroyed property. You received $4,000 from the fund and
spent the entire amount on repairs to your home. In figuring your
casualty loss, you must reduce your unreimbursed loss ($10,000) by the
$4,000 you received from your employer's fund. Your casualty loss
before applying the deduction limits discussed later is $6,000.
If you receive excludable cash gifts as a disaster victim and there
are no limits on how you can use the money, you do not reduce your
casualty loss by these excludable cash gifts. This applies even if you
use the money to pay for repairs to property damaged in the disaster.
Your home was damaged by a hurricane. Relatives and neighbors made
cash gifts to you that were excludable from your income. You applied
part of the cash gifts to the cost of repairing your home. There were
no limits or restrictions on how you could use the cash gifts. Because
it was received as excludable gifts, the money you received and used
to pay for repairs to your home does not reduce your casualty loss on
the damaged home.
Insurance payments for living expenses.
You do not reduce your casualty loss by insurance payments you
receive to cover living expenses in either of the following
- You lose the use of your main home because of a
- Government authorities do not allow you access to your main
home because of a casualty or threat of one.
Inclusion in income.
If these insurance payments are more than the temporary increase in
your living expenses, you must include the excess in your income.
Report this amount on line 21 of Form 1040.
A temporary increase in your living expenses is the difference
between the actual living expenses you and your family incurred during
the period you could not use your home and your normal living expenses
for that period. Actual living expenses are the reasonable and
necessary expenses incurred because of the loss of your main home.
Generally, these expenses include the amounts you pay for the
- Renting suitable housing
- Miscellaneous services
Normal living expenses consist of these same expenses that you
would have incurred but did not because of the casualty.
As a result of a fire, you vacated your apartment for a month and
moved to a motel. You normally pay $525 a month rent. None was charged
for the month the apartment was vacated. Your motel rent for this
month was $1,200. You normally pay $200 a month for food. Your food
expenses for the month you lived in the motel were $400. You received
$1,100 from your insurance company to cover your living expenses. You
determine the payment you must include in income as follows.
||Insurance payment for living expenses
||Actual expenses during the month you are unable
to use your home because of the fire
||Normal living expenses
||Temporary increase in
living expenses: Subtract line 3
from line 2
||Amount of payment includible in income:
Subtract line 4 from line 1
Tax year of inclusion.
You include the taxable part of the insurance payment in income for
the year you regain the use of your main home or, if later, for the
year you receive the taxable part of the insurance payment.
Your main home was destroyed by a tornado in August 1998. You
regained use of your home in November 1999. The insurance payments you
received in 1998 and 1999 were $1,500 more than the temporary increase
in your living expenses during those years. You include this amount in
income on your 1999 Form 1040. If, in 2000, you receive further
payments to cover the living expenses you had in 1998 and 1999, you
must include those payments in income on your 2000 Form 1040.
Food, medical supplies, and other forms of assistance you receive
do not reduce your casualty loss, unless they are replacements for
lost or destroyed property. They also are not taxable income to you.
Disaster unemployment assistance payments are unemployment benefits
that are taxable.
Reimbursement Received After Deducting Loss
If you figured your casualty or theft loss using your expected
reimbursement, you may have to adjust your tax return for the tax year
in which you get your actual reimbursement. This section explains the
adjustment you may have to make.
Actual reimbursement less than expected.
If you later receive less reimbursement than you expected, include
that difference as a loss with your other losses (if any) on your
return for the year in which you can reasonably expect no more
Your personal car had an FMV of $2,000 when it was destroyed in a
collision with another car last year. The accident was due to the
negligence of the other driver. At the end of the year, there was a
reasonable prospect that the owner of the other car would reimburse
you in full. You did not have a deductible loss last year.
This January, the court awards you a judgment of $2,000. However,
in July it becomes apparent that you will be unable to collect any
amount from the other driver. Since this is your only casualty or
theft loss, you can deduct the loss this year that is more than $100
and 10% of this year's adjusted gross income.
Actual reimbursement more than expected.
If you later receive more reimbursement than you expected, after
you have claimed a deduction for the loss, you may have to include the
extra reimbursement in your income for the year you receive it.
However, if any part of the original deduction did not reduce your tax
for the earlier year, do not include that part of the reimbursement in
your income. You do not refigure your tax for the year you claimed the
deduction. See Recoveries in Publication 525
to find out
how much extra reimbursement to include in income.
Last year, a hurricane destroyed your motorboat. Your loss was
$3,000, and you estimated that your insurance would cover $2,500 of
it. Since you did not itemize deductions on your return last year, you
could not deduct the loss. When the insurance company reimburses you
for the loss, you do not report any of the reimbursement as income.
This is true even if it is for the full $3,000 because you did not
deduct the loss on your return. The loss did not reduce your tax.
If the total of all the reimbursements you receive is more than
your adjusted basis in the destroyed or stolen property, you will have
a gain on the casualty or theft. If you have already taken
a deduction for a loss and you receive the reimbursement in a later
year, you may have to include the gain in your income for the later
year. Include the gain as ordinary income up to the amount of your
deduction that reduced your tax for the earlier year. You may be able
to postpone reporting any remaining gain as explained under
Postponement of Gain, later.
Actual reimbursement same as expected.
If you receive exactly the reimbursement you expected to receive,
you do not have any amount to include in your income or any loss to
Last December, you had a collision while driving your personal car.
Repairs to the car cost $950. You had $100 deductible collision
insurance. Your insurance company agreed to reimburse you for the rest
of the damage. As a result of your expected reimbursement from the
insurance company, you did not have a casualty loss deduction last
Due to the $100 rule, you cannot deduct the $100 you paid as the
deductible. When you receive the $850 from the insurance company this
year, do not report it as income.
Previous | First | Next
Publication Index | 2000 Tax Help Archives | Tax Help Archives | Home