If you suffer damage to your home or personal property, you may be able to deduct these “casualty” losses on your federal income tax return. A casualty is a sudden, unexpected or unusual event, such as a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, etc.), fire, accident, theft or vandalism. A casualty loss doesn’t include losses from normal wear and tear or progressive deterioration from age or termite damage.
Here are some things you should know about deducting casualty losses:
When to deduct. Generally, you must deduct a casualty loss in the year it occurred. However, if you have a loss from a federally declared disaster area, you may have the option to deduct the loss on an amended return for the immediately preceding tax year.
Amount of loss. Your loss is generally the lesser of 1) your adjusted basis in the property before the casualty (typically, the amount you paid for it), or 2) the decrease in fair market value of the property as a result of the casualty. This amount must be reduced by any insurance or other reimbursement you received or expect to receive. (If the property was insured, you must have filed a timely claim for reimbursement of your loss.)
$100 rule. After you’ve figured your casualty loss on personal-use property, you must reduce that loss by $100. This reduction applies to each casualty loss event during the year. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of property are involved in an event.
10% rule. You must reduce the total of all your casualty or theft losses on personal-use property for the year by 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). In other words, you can deduct these losses only to the extent they exceed 10% of your AGI.
Have questions about deducting casualty losses? Contact us!
Catastrophes, thefts, natural disasters, accidents, fires – they happen. If such misfortunes strike, a well-researched and up-to-date homeowner’s insurance policy can keep your family’s finances afloat during trying times. Proceeds from a homeowner’s policy can provide necessary funds to replace your house and belongings. A good policy can also protect against unexpected liabilities.
If you’re considering a new homeowner’s policy (or already have one), watch out for some common pitfalls, including the following:
Inadequate policy limits. Some homeowners try to lower their premiums by purchasing a policy that doesn’t fund their home’s replacement value. That’s often a big mistake. If the cost to replace your home has risen over the years and policy limits haven’t kept pace, you could end up footing the bill for much of the replacement cost (or selling your property at fire sale prices).
Personal property not documented. If you need to file a claim, an insurance carrier will want solid evidence that you owned the items being claimed. It’s a good idea to take pictures or videos of all your household goods, and keep receipts of all expensive purchases. Place copies of the pictures and receipts in a safe deposit box and at home in a fireproof safe. You might even send copies to an out-of-town friend or relative. Being able to provide clear evidence of your personal belongings will simplify the claims process and help ensure that you get paid.
Valuables not covered. Check your policy to ensure that expensive jewelry, antiques, and other valuables are included. If not, consider adding a rider to the policy that specifically lists such items.
Deductible too low. Generally, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. True, in the event a claim needs to be filed, you’ll pay a bigger chunk of the repair or replacement cost with a high deductible. On the other hand, with a high deductible you’ll generally pay lower premiums each year.
By doing careful research and avoiding some common mistakes, your homeowner’s insurance policy will be affordable and still provide solid protection should disaster strike.