Publication 584 - Main Content


Losses

Generally, you may deduct losses to your home, household goods, and motor vehicles on your federal income tax return. However, you may not deduct a casualty or theft loss that is covered by insurance unless you filed a timely insurance claim for reimbursement. Any reimbursement you receive will reduce the loss. If you did not file an insurance claim, you may deduct only the part of the loss that was not covered by insurance.

Amount of loss.   You figure the amount of your loss using the following steps.
  1. Determine your cost or other basis in the property before the casualty or theft.

  2. Determine the decrease in fair market value (FMV) of the property as a result of the casualty or theft. (The decrease in FMV is the difference between the property's value immediately before and immediately after the casualty or theft.)

  3. From the smaller of the amounts you determined in (1) and (2), subtract any insurance or other reimbursement you received or expect to receive.

Apply the deduction limits, discussed later, to determine the amount of your deductible loss.

Cost or other basis.   Cost or other basis usually means original cost plus improvements. If you did not acquire the property by purchasing it, your basis is determined as discussed in Publication 551, Basis of Assets. If you inherited the property from someone who died in 2010, and the executor of the decedent's estate made the election to file Form 8939, refer to the information provided by the executor or see Publication 4895, Tax Treatment of Property Acquired From a Decedent Dying in 2010.

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. When filling out Schedules 1 through 20, you need to know the FMV of the property immediately before and immediately after the disaster, casualty, or theft.

Separate computations.   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 or theft.

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.

Deduction limits.   After you have figured the amount of your loss, as discussed earlier, you must figure how much of the loss you can deduct. You do this on Form 4684, section A. If the loss was to property for your personal use or your family's, there are two limits on the amount you can deduct for your casualty or theft loss.
  1. You must reduce each casualty or theft loss by $100 ($100 rule).

  2. You must further reduce the total of all your losses by 10% of your adjusted gross income (10% rule).

More information.   For more information about the deduction limits, see Publication 547.

When your loss is deductible.   You can generally deduct a casualty or disaster area loss only in the tax year in which the casualty or disaster occurred. You can generally deduct a theft loss only in the year you discovered your property was stolen. However, you can choose to deduct disaster area losses on your return for the year immediately before the year of the disaster if the President has declared your area a federal disaster area. For details, see Disaster Area Losses in Publication 547.

Comments and Suggestions

We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.

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Internal Revenue Service 
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Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.

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Internal Revenue Service 
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Tax questions.   If you have a tax question, check the information available on IRS.gov or call 1-800-829-1040. We cannot answer tax questions sent to either of the above addresses.

How To Get Tax Help

You can get help with unresolved tax issues, order free publications and forms, ask tax questions, and get information from the IRS in several ways. By selecting the method that is best for you, you will have quick and easy access to tax help.

Free help with your return.   Free help in preparing your return is available nationwide from IRS-certified volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low-moderate income taxpayers and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is designed to assist taxpayers age 60 and older with their tax returns. Most VITA and TCE sites offer free electronic filing and all volunteers will let you know about credits and deductions you may be entitled to claim. To find the nearest VITA or TCE site, visit IRS.gov or call 1-800-906-9887 or 1-800-829-1040.

  As part of the TCE program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program. To find the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP's website at 
www.aarp.org/money/taxaide.

  For more information on these programs, go to IRS.gov and enter keyword “VITA” in the upper right-hand corner.

Internet. You can access the IRS website at IRS.gov 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to:

  • E-file your return. Find out about commercial tax preparation and e-file services available free to eligible taxpayers.

  • Check the status of your 2011 refund. Go to IRS.gov and click on Where's My Refund. Wait at least 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after mailing a paper return. If you filed Form 8379 with your return, wait 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically). Have your 2011 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund.

  • Download forms, including talking tax forms, instructions, and publications.

  • Order IRS products online.

  • Research your tax questions online.

  • Search publications online by topic or keyword.

  • Use the online Internal Revenue Code, regulations, or other official guidance.

  • View Internal Revenue Bulletins (IRBs) published in the last few years.

  • Figure your withholding allowances using the withholding calculator online at www.irs.gov/individuals.

  • Determine if Form 6251 must be filed by using our Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Assistant available online at www.irs.gov/individuals.

  • Sign up to receive local and national tax news by email.

  • Get information on starting and operating a small business.

Phone. Many services are available by phone.  

  • Ordering forms, instructions, and publications. Call 1-800-TAX -FORM (1-800-829-3676) to order current-year forms, instructions, and publications, and prior-year forms and instructions. You should receive your order within 10 days.

  • Asking tax questions. Call the IRS with your tax questions at 1-800-829-1040.

  • Solving problems. You can get face-to-face help solving tax problems every business day in IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. An employee can explain IRS letters, request adjustments to your account, or help you set up a payment plan. Call your local Taxpayer Assistance Center for an appointment. To find the number, go to www.irs.gov/localcontacts or look in the phone book under United States Government, Internal Revenue Service.

  • TTY/TDD equipment. If you have access to TTY/TDD equipment, call 1-800-829-4059 to ask tax questions or to order forms and publications.

  • TeleTax topics. Call 1-800-829-4477 to listen to pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics.

  • Refund information. To check the status of your 2011 refund, call 1-800-829-1954 or 1-800-829-4477 (automated refund information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Wait at least 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after mailing a paper return. If you filed Form 8379 with your return, wait 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically). Have your 2011 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund. If you check the status of your refund and are not given the date it will be issued, please wait until the next week before checking back.

  • Other refund information. To check the status of a prior-year refund or amended return refund, call 1-800-829-1040.

Evaluating the quality of our telephone services. To ensure IRS representatives give accurate, courteous, and professional answers, we use several methods to evaluate the quality of our telephone services. One method is for a second IRS representative to listen in on or record random telephone calls. Another is to ask some callers to complete a short survey at the end of the call.

Walk-in. Many products and services are available on a walk-in basis. 

  • Products. You can walk in to many post offices, libraries, and IRS offices to pick up certain forms, instructions, and publications. Some IRS offices, libraries, grocery stores, copy centers, city and county government offices, credit unions, and office supply stores have a collection of products available to print from a CD or photocopy from reproducible proofs. Also, some IRS offices and libraries have the Internal Revenue Code, regulations, Internal Revenue Bulletins, and Cumulative Bulletins available for research purposes.

  • Services. You can walk in to your local Taxpayer Assistance Center every business day for personal, face-to-face tax help. An employee can explain IRS letters, request adjustments to your tax account, or help you set up a payment plan. If you need to resolve a tax problem, have questions about how the tax law applies to your individual tax return, or you are more comfortable talking with someone in person, visit your local Taxpayer Assistance Center where you can spread out your records and talk with an IRS representative face-to-face. No appointment is necessary—just walk in. If you prefer, you can call your local Center and leave a message requesting an appointment to resolve a tax account issue. A representative will call you back within 2 business days to schedule an in-person appointment at your convenience. If you have an ongoing, complex tax account problem or a special need, such as a disability, an appointment can be requested. All other issues will be handled without an appointment. To find the number of your local office, go to  
    www.irs.gov/localcontacts or look in the phone book under United States Government, Internal Revenue Service.

Mail. You can send your order for forms, instructions, and publications to the address below. You should receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

 
Internal Revenue Service 
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway 
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613

Taxpayer Advocate Service.   The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is your voice at the IRS. Our job is to ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly, and that you know and understand your rights. We offer free help to guide you through the often-confusing process of resolving tax problems that you haven’t been able to solve on your own. Remember, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all.

  TAS can help if you can’t resolve your problem with the IRS and:
  • Your problem is causing financial difficulties for you, your family, or your business.

  • You face (or your business is facing) an immediate threat of adverse action.

  • You have tried repeatedly to contact the IRS but no one has responded, or the IRS has not responded to you by the date promised.

  If you qualify for our help, we’ll do everything we can to get your problem resolved. You will be assigned to one advocate who will be with you at every turn. We have offices in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Although TAS is independent within the IRS, our advocates know how to work with the IRS to get your problems resolved. And our services are always free.

  As a taxpayer, you have rights that the IRS must abide by in its dealings with you. Our tax toolkit at www.TaxpayerAdvocate.irs.gov can help you understand these rights.

  If you think TAS might be able to help you, call your local advocate, whose number is in your phone book and on our website at www.irs.gov/advocate. You can also call our toll-free number at 1-877-777-4778 or TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059.

  TAS also handles large-scale or systemic problems that affect many taxpayers. If you know of one of these broad issues, please report it to us through our Systemic Advocacy Management System at www.irs.gov/advocate.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs).   Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS. Some clinics serve individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve a tax problem. These clinics provide professional representation before the IRS or in court on audits, appeals, tax collection disputes, and other issues for free or for a small fee. Some clinics can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in many different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. For more information and to find a clinic near you, see the LITC page on www.irs.gov/advocate or IRS Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List. This publication is also available by calling 1-800-829-3676 or at your local IRS office.

Free tax services.   Publication 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services, is your guide to IRS services and resources. Learn about free tax information from the IRS, including publications, services, and education and assistance programs. The publication also has an index of over 100 TeleTax topics (recorded tax information) you can listen to on the telephone. The majority of the information and services listed in this publication are available to you free of charge. If there is a fee associated with a resource or service, it is listed in the publication.

  Accessible versions of IRS published products are available on request in a variety of alternative formats for people with disabilities.

DVD for tax products. You can order Publication 1796, IRS Tax Products DVD, and obtain:

  • Current-year forms, instructions, and publications.

  • Prior-year forms, instructions, and publications.

  • Tax Map: an electronic research tool and finding aid.

  • Tax law frequently asked questions.

  • Tax Topics from the IRS telephone response system.

  • Internal Revenue Code—Title 26 of the U.S. Code.

  • Links to other Internet based Tax Research Materials.

  • Fill-in, print, and save features for most tax forms.

  • Internal Revenue Bulletins.

  • Toll-free and email technical support.

  • Two releases during the year. 
    – The first release will ship the beginning of January 2012. 
    – The final release will ship the beginning of March 2012.

Purchase the DVD from National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at www.irs.gov/cdorders for $30 (no handling fee) or call 1-877-233-6767 toll free to buy the DVD for $30 (plus a $6 handling fee).


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