FAQs for Disaster Victims - Calculating a Casualty Loss Under the National Disaster Relief Act of 2008


(03/09) Q: How do I determine my deduction for a casualty loss that resulted from a federally declared disaster.

A: How you determine a disaster-related casualty losses has changed as a result of the National Disaster Relief Act of 2008, which is effective for disasters occurring after December 31, 2007, and before January 1, 2010.

Under prior law, individuals who suffered casualty losses as a result of a Presidentially declared disaster were required to reduce the loss from each casualty event by $100 and reduce the total of their casualty losses for the tax year by 10 percent of their adjusted gross income. In addition, these individuals were required to claim their casualty losses as an itemized deduction.

The new law changes the amount by which individual taxpayers must reduce their personal casualty losses from each casualty event from $100 to $500. This change is effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008. The reduction amount returns to $100 for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2009.

The new law also removes the 10 percent of adjusted gross income limitation for net disaster losses and allows individuals to claim the net disaster losses even if they do not itemize their deductions.

To qualify, a loss must be attributable to a federally declared disaster and occur in an area determined by the President to warrant assistance by the federal government under the Stafford Act. The deduction is limited to the “net disaster loss” which consists of the excess of personal casualty losses attributable to a federally declared disaster over personal casualty gains.

Information on disaster areas may be found at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

These changes to the law do not apply to the casualty losses in the Midwestern disaster areas declared during the period beginning on May 20, 2008, and ending on July 31, 2008. See Publication 4492-B, Information for Affected Taxpayers in the Midwestern Disaster Areas.