My apartment flooded. Can I deduct my losses?

March 02, 2020 by David E. Du Val, EA
Flooded Apartment

I lived in an apartment for 6 months this year. While out of town, the hose on the hot water heater blew off and flooded my apartment. I lost everything due to mold and water damage. Insurance paid about half of what I lost. Would the other be considered a loss?
 
Susan
 
 
Susan,
 

We are sorry to hear about the damage to your apartment and belongings. The answer is, for federal tax purposes, there is no deduction available at this time. Under recent tax legislation, as of the 2018 tax year, personal Casualty and Theft losses are no longer deductible on the federal tax return. However, depending on your state tax rules, the loss may or may not be deductible on your state tax return.
 

The general rule is that to qualify as a Casualty and Theft loss for state taxes, the accident has to be “sudden and unexpected,” and if the state agency (if the loss is allowed) audits this issue, they could determine that it was caused by slow deterioration, in which case it would not qualify as a loss.
 

A clearer example is if there is a tree next to your driveway and lightening hits a branch and it falls and damages your car. That would be considered a casualty loss (minus insurance reimbursement and subject to certain income limits).  But if that branch had been eaten by termites and fell on your vehicle, that would not be a casualty loss for tax purposes as it was not “sudden.”
 

If your landlord was responsible for maintaining the heater but did not keep it in good working order, the IRS will not want to give you a tax break for something your landlord is responsible for.
 

Deductibly Yours,
Dave

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David E. Du Val, EA
Chief Compliance Officer for TRI Holdco

 

Dave Du Val, EA, is Chief Compliance Officer for TRI Holdco. Inc., the parent company of TaxAudit, and Centenal Tax Group. A nationally recognized speaker and educator, Dave is well known for his high energy and dynamic presentation style. He is a frequent and popular guest speaker for the California Society of Tax Consultants, the California Society of Enrolled Agents and the National Association of Tax Professionals. Dave frequently contributes tax tips and information to news publications, including US News and World Report, USA Today, and CPA Practice Advisor. Dave is an Enrolled Agent who has prepared thousands of returns during his career and has trained and mentored hundreds of tax professionals. He is a member of the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Association of Enrolled Agents and the California Society of Enrolled Agents. Dave also holds a Master of Arts in Education and has been educating people since 1972. 


 

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