Can Stolen Cash Be a Deduction on Tax Returns?

by Beverly Bird ; Updated March 15, 2018

If someone steals cash from you, this can indeed qualify for a tax deduction – at least through tax year 2017. Deducting the loss of cash can be tricky, but it’s permissible. It might not be worth your while to claim the deduction, however, particularly under the new rules effective in tax years 2018 through 2025, but if you decide to do so, you must follow a number of rules.

Tax Rules Regarding Theft Losses

Unfortunately, if someone steals $1,000 cash from you, this doesn’t mean you'll get a $1,000 tax deduction. First, you must subtract $100 from that amount, plus another $100 for any additional casualty or theft losses. Your next step is to total all your losses after these $100 deductions, assuming you’ve also fallen victim to other thefts or casualty events, such as a tornado tossing your automobile to parts unknown. Now subtract 10 percent of your adjusted gross income from the total – this is the amount of the casualty and theft deduction you’re entitled to. You can find your AGI on line 37 of your Form 1040 tax return.

If you only have that one theft for $900 after the $100 deduction, and if your AGI is $40,000, you’re out of luck. You must subtract 10 percent or $4,000 from the $900, leaving you with a negative balance, so you’d have no tax deduction. But if you add in the car you lost in that tornado that might have been worth $9,900 after subtracting the $100 deductible, you get a tax deduction of $6,800: $900 for the cash, plus $9,900 equals $10,800, less $4,000 or 10 percent of your $40,000 AGI.

If You’re Insured for the Loss

Assuming that you have an insurance policy that’s going to kick in and reimburse you for your loss or even a portion of it, you have to subtract this amount from your potential tax deduction, too. Some homeowners and renters insurance policies cover thefts to some degree. This can be an “anticipated” reimbursement – you don’t actually have to have the money in hand at the time you file your tax return. And no, you can’t just decline to file an insurance claim so you can take the tax deduction. If you have insurance, you’re required to seek reimbursement for the loss.

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Claiming the Loss

If you do end up with a theft loss after all this subtracting and deducting, you must itemize your deductions on your tax return, rather than claim the standard deduction for your filing status if you want to claim it. This is only beneficial if all your itemized deductions add up to more than the standard deduction you’re entitled to. Your theft loss will also require that you complete and file IRS Form 4684 showing how you made all the necessary deductions from the amount of your loss.

Changes in Tax Year 2018

You can only claim this tax deduction if the theft occurred in the 2017 tax year. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act goes into effect for tax years 2018 through 2025 and it pretty much eliminates this deduction for many taxpayers. You can still claim a casualty loss for property under the terms of the TCJA, but only if it’s destroyed in an event that’s been declared a disaster by the president. This leaves you out if someone swipes your cash. The TCJA also nearly doubles standard deductions, so you’d need a lot of itemized deductions to top these amounts.

About the Author

Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

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