Taxpayers generally must deduct a loss under Section 165 in the tax year the loss occurs, but under Section 165(i) may elect to deduct a loss attributable to a federally declared disaster in the preceding tax year. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the President has issued a federal disaster declaration for all 50 states. Accordingly, taxpayers may elect to claim otherwise deductible losses sustained in 2020 and attributable to the pandemic on their 2019 tax returns. What constitutes a loss attributable to a disaster that qualifies for treatment under Section 165(i) depends on a taxpayer’s particular facts and circumstances.
Taxpayers that realize Section 165 losses in a federally declared disaster area not compensated by insurance or otherwise and attributable to the disaster may elect to deduct those losses in the preceding tax year. What may qualify as a loss for these purposes depends on a taxpayer’s particular facts and circumstances.