By now, you know the sobering statistics of the August flooding. You might even factor into those statistics because you lack flood insurance.
Not even half of the homes in areas at a high risk for flooding had flood insurance. In St. Helena Parish, not even one percent of homes and businesses had flood insurance.
FEMA can grant up to $33,000 in assistance, but you’re going to get far less than that. The average FEMA assistance for Superstorm Sandy was less than $8,000.
So here’s your predicament: You have cabinets to replace. You have sheetrock to replace. You have floors to replace. You have couches, beds and tables to replace. Even the washer and dryer couldn’t be saved. You don’t have flood insurance. You only have a little bit of FEMA assistance.
As your State Treasurer, I want to impart two things to you.
First, we will rebuild. Our neighborhoods will return. Our businesses will reopen.
Second, you can deduct your unreimbursed casualty losses on your tax return or amended tax return.
This is a complicated deduction (you can locate the information sheet on it at https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc515.html). However, it’s worth considering, especially if you didn’t have flood insurance. And many, many people didn’t have flood insurance.
The deduction for casualty losses in federally declared disaster areas is designed to help people who have been impacted by a sudden, unexpected or unusual event. It applies to uninsured or unreimbursed losses on homes, household items and vehicles. So keep those photographs of everything the floodwaters touched. They’ll come in handy when it’s time to do your taxes.
You can deduct a casualty loss in the year in which it occurred or in the year immediately preceding the tax year in which the disaster occurred. In other words, you can claim it on this year’s tax return or you can amend last year’s return in order to get a quicker refund. You have to claim it as an itemized deduction.
It’s important to remember that a casualty loss isn’t for normal wear and tear. The chair that floated from the den into the living room probably applies if you didn’t have flood insurance for the contents of your home. The chair that your kids redecorated with splashes of spaghetti sauce and grape juice doesn’t apply.
This deduction isn’t just for homeowners. Business owners and rental property owners also can take it.
To see if you qualify, take the time to look at the Internal Revenue Service’s workbook. It’s Publication 547. The workbook includes examples to help you. Visit https://www.irs.gov/publications/p547.
Tax relief is one more avenue of assistance available to you. It might be an avenue that you didn’t even know existed.