Tax breaks are available for disaster victims

When natural disasters occur, they often leave many people with severely damaged or destroyed homes and businesses. Some lose everything they own. If you are affected by a disaster that is declared by the President to qualify for federal assistance, there are several provisions in the tax law that may provide relief.

Extended tax deadline and interest abatement. The IRS is authorized to postpone the deadlines for filing returns and paying taxes for up to 120 days in a Presidentially declared disaster area. Also, the IRS will not charge interest that would otherwise accrue for the extension period.

Faster refund. Taxpayers suffering losses in a federal disaster area have a choice of which tax year to deduct the casualty loss. You may deduct it on the return for the year the loss occurs, or it can be claimed on your prior year’s tax return. Amending your prior year’s return may give you a refund of much-needed cash sooner than waiting to deduct the loss on your current year’s tax return.

Tax-free gain. If the insurance payments you receive exceed the tax basis of your property, you will end up with a casualty gain. Casualty gains in federal disaster areas receive special tax treatment. For example:

*Individuals may qualify for up to a $250,000 gain exclusion ($500,000 for married couples) on their principal residence. That’s because the destruction of the residence is treated as a “sale” for tax purposes.

*No gain is recognized on the insurance reimbursement for the contents of a building as long as those contents were not separately listed on the insurance policy.

*If you replace your property with similar property within four years, you may be able to avoid or postpone paying tax on any gain from your involuntary conversion.

If you suffer a casualty loss, give us a call to discuss the best tax course of action in your situation.

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today’s small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it.

Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission.

Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations.

She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.

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