Congress and the IRS have relaxed the rules for deducting casualty losses for victims of the 2005 Gulf hurricanes (i.e., Katrina, Rita and Wilma). The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act suspends the limits on personal casualties imposed by Sec. 165(h); see Secs. 1400M and 1400S. In Rev. Proc. 2006-32, the Service offered alternative methods in calculating the deductible loss. Tax practitioners with clients in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas should familiarize themselves with this procedure.
Generally, to determine the deductible loss under Sec. 165(a), Regs. Sec. 1.165-7(a)(2)(i) provides that the fair market value (FMV) of the property immediately before and immediately after the casualty generally shall be ascertained by competent appraisal. Rev. Proc. 2006-32 provides safe harbors for individuals who want to use this provision to determine the (1) decrease in the FMV of their personal-use residential real property and (2) pre-hurricane FMV of personal belongings. The procedure provides three safe-harbor methods that permit individuals to calculate the decrease in FMV of their personal residences and one safe-harbor method that allows individuals to calculate the decrease in FMV of their personal belongings.
Insurance Safe Harbor
Under this method, taxpayers can calculate the decrease in the FMV of their personal residence by relying on reports prepared by their flood or homeowners' insurance company.
Contractor Safe Harbor
Under this method, taxpayers can use the contract price for repairs to their residence to determine the decrease in FMV of their personal residence. The price for repairs needs to be specified in an itemized contract (signed by the contractor and individual) made in accordance with local or state specifications. The contract should describe the costs to restore the residence to its pre-hurricane condition. However, the cost of work done to enhance the value of the residence over its pre-hurricane value must be excluded from the contract price.
Cost Indexes Safe Harbor
This method allows taxpayers to use one or more of the indexes provided in Rev. Proc. 2006-32, Section 4.04, to calculate the decrease in the residence's FMV. The indexes provide a dollar value per square foot of specific damage categories (e.g., total loss, near-total loss, interior...