For Hurricane Losses, IRS Could Help

Residents affected by Hurricane Ike may have more avenues to recoup their losses than they think. There’s insurance, FEMA and there’s your IRS Income tax return. Laurie Johnson explains.

Most of your property losses should be covered by your homeowners insurance, provided you have insurance.

FEMA then fills the gap to cover other losses.

“I don’t know if your insurance company would cover rental assistance while your home is being repaired.”

FEMA Spokesman Dennis Read.

“That’s something that FEMA might pick up. Various other kinds of lost personal property — we’ve seen examples, somebody lost a wheelchair or a major appliance or something — and that for some reason wasn’t covered by the homeowners insurance and that’s something you can ask FEMA for assistance.”

In the three weeks since Ike, 667,395 people have registered for FEMA assistance. And those numbers are going up by several thousand each day. With that many people filing claims, it’s inevitable that some of them will not recover 100 percent of their losses.

That’s where the IRS may come in.

CPA Ed Gardner says it may be possible for some people to claim a Disaster Loss on their tax returns.

“And there’s something unique when you’re in a federal disaster area is that you have the opportunity of taking the loss against your current tax year which would be the 2008 tax return, or you can amend the previous year which in our case would be the 2007, and claim the loss then. So someone needs to look and see which year they’ll be able to get a higher refund if they have a substantial loss.”

So for things that may not be covered by insurance and FEMA…say Grandma’s heirloom jewelry or your set of China…it may be worthwhile to actually look to the IRS for help.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

More Information