Recovering from Mother Nature’s catastrophes is never easy. With a record number of FEMA disaster areas in 2017 from hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, severe storms, flooding, and wildfires, loss victims could use their tax filing to obtain much-needed cash. Millions of Americans who have been affected by natural disasters should be sure they are getting the most from their tax return.

To help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of a natural disaster, the government recognizes that victims of natural disasters will have property losses to claim and may need access to fast cash and other financial relief. For those filing taxes, there are resources available to lower tax bills, give the opportunity to recoup some losses, and provisions that can even help put money in your pocket!

Claim Disaster Loses

Generally, you can't claim personal casualty losses when doing your taxes, unless you meet certain qualifications, itemize your deduction, and your loss exceeded 10-percent of your adjusted gross income. You can claim damage on your standard return without itemizing from hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria, if your uninsured, unreimbursed loss exceeds $500, you can claim it on your standard return without itemizing.

Tax Credits

Qualify for Earned Income Credit (EITC) and/or Child Tax Credit (CTC)? You are being given special rules related to being eligible for the same tax credits for 2017; if your earned income for calculating the EITC and CTC in 2017 is lower than in 2016, you may substitute the prior year’s amount (pre-hurricane) when calculating these credits for filing. Determining the most beneficial year in which to claim the loss requires a careful evaluation by a Tax Pro of the entire tax picture for both years.

Retirement Distributions

Filers from eligible disaster zones can take distributions of up to $100,000 from a qualified IRA or 401(k). The 10-percent penalty (for withdrawal if younger than 59 1/2 years old) will be waived. Keep in mind that you must access these funds within a reasonable period after the disaster, and repay the funds within three years to avoid paying income taxes on the borrowed amount.

Extended Deadline for Hurricane Maria Victims

The IRS has extended the tax deadline for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S.Virgin Islands until June 29, 2018The IRS will remove any interest, late-payment or late-filing penalty that would otherwise apply for 2017 tax returns. The IRS automatically provides this relief to any taxpayer located in this disaster area; taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief.

Getting through the tough times that follow natural disasters can be frustrating and complicated. Using a Tax Pro to understand options and resources can help ease stress. If you have suffered a loss, your neighborhood Tax Pro can guide you through the steps to ensure you obtain the most from the tax relief benefits available to get the money you need now.