TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / Tax Deductions and Credits / Tax Credits for Those Affected by Natural Disasters

Tax Credits for Those Affected by Natural Disasters

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

The most significant helping hand offered by the IRS, the casualty loss deduction, provides an accelerated tax refund when you live in an area proclaimed as a "federally declared disaster area" by the president of the United States.


On average, more than 867,000 Americans experienced hardship from natural disasters each year between 1980 and 2010, according to the disaster information site PreventionWeb. Historically, the Internal Revenue Service acknowledges the financial impact of devastating storms, droughts, forest fires and earthquakes with extended deadlines and tax relief, rather than issuing new tax credits. The most significant helping hand offered by the IRS, the casualty loss deduction, provides an accelerated tax refund when you live in an area proclaimed as a "federally declared disaster area" by the president of the United States.

Tax extensions for natural disasters

Tax-compliance deadlines try citizens in the best of times. When a federally-declared disaster hits, looming dates for form filing and payments add stress and anxiety to those affected. The IRS has a history of responding to taxpayer needs in these situations by postponing deadlines for estimated and installment tax payments.

Business owners get more time to send payroll taxes and returns, too. Penalties and associated interest get waived as long as the new, post-disaster dates are met. Those who maintain financial records within the declared disaster zone, but reside away from it, get the same extensions.

Depending on the extent of the damage, the agency has granted similar leeway to relief workers representing charitable and governmental organizations. The IRS can also waive its normal fee for copies of past returns to assist victims whose documents were destroyed or lost in the disaster. Past victims of devastating hurricanes benefited from expanded educational credits, the opportunity to accelerate the Earned Income Tax Credit and penalty-free early IRA withdrawals.

Tax-free donations and natural disaster assistance

Victims of federally-declared disasters need financial aid, but they don't need the added burden of paying taxes on any money they receive. The IRS has allowed organizations to provide tax-free financial assistance to their workers.

Nonprofits can take advantage of this tax break for affected members of their workforce without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. To encourage employees to help their colleagues, the agency has, on occasion, allowed them to "sell" vacation time and other paid leave to their employer who, in turn, gives the cash equivalent to a disaster-affected employee. The donating worker can then deduct his gift on his tax return.

Natural disaster casualty loss break

Tax law provides additional assistance through the casualty loss deduction. A key provision allows victims in federally declared disaster areas to file an amended return for the previous year to get a refund quickly, rather than wait until the disaster year ends. Taxpayers who didn't itemize may benefit by taking advantage of this tax break. Casualty loss does not translate into a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement of hardship expenses. It does, however, result in a lower tax obligation that can improve cash flow to pay for recovery.

Disaster tax relief record keeping

Disasters do not change the fact that tax forms and documentation go hand-in-hand. Photos or videos of damage and subsequent restoration can help establish property values, while receipts and cancelled checks support claimed deductions. Records of payments from insurance companies and government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, can prove their exclusion as income and limit tax exposure.

The IRS has no format requirements for substantiating money spent and received as long as the method used provides details, such as date, source, purpose and amount for disaster-related transactions.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99*
Sign In

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Absolute Zero $0 federal (1040EZ/1040A) + $0 state offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 TurboTax Self-Employed return between 4/19/17 and 10/16/17 to receive your complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 10/31/18. Activation by 12/31/17 required. Sign in to QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/turbotax; e-mail address used for activation and sign-in. Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers. See QuickBooks.com for price comparison.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not purchase TurboTax Self-Employed by 10/15/18, you will have the option of renewing your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 10/31/18 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • Pays for itself (TurboTax Self-Employed): Estimates based on deductible business expenses calculated at the self-employment tax income rate (15%) for tax year 2016. Actual results will vary based on your tax situation.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or on-screen); not included with Federal Free Edition (but available for purchase with the Plus bundle). SmartLook on-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. TurboTax experts provide general advice, customer service and product help; tax advice provided only by credentialed CPAs, enrolled agents and tax attorneys. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Return Access, My Docs and My Analysis & Advice features: Access to all tax-related documents we have on file for you is available until you file your 2017 tax return or through 10/31/2018, whichever comes first. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • #1 rated online tax prep provider: Based on independent comparison of the best online tax software by TopTenReviews.com March 13, 2017.
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2016 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; may require a free Intuit online account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2016 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2012 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.