Wildfire Settlements Are Now Tax Free In California & Taxed By IRS

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California has passed two laws to protect certain victims of wildfire cases from state taxes on their legal settlements. One law applies to PG&E recovery, the other to the Edison suit. Both bills provide necessary tax relief, but the IRS still considers lawsuit settlements to be taxable. Most legal settlements are taxable, even for damages caused by a catastrophic fire. This grim fact can come as an unpleasant surprise to fire victims. California law has recently been signed into law, but it’s unclear what the federal bill would be like. A large number of tax bills are introduced that never pass.

proposed federal bill It was introduced by Congressmen Doug LaMalfa (R – Calif.) and Mike Thompson (D – Calif.) and would exempt thousands of fire victims who are receiving compensation from the PG&E Fire Victims Trust of federal income tax on their settlements. will have to pay. California recently created a state-level version of this law, AB-1249, authored by Assemblyman James Gallagher, which created a similar exemption from California state taxes. Although AB-1249 now provides relief to some fire victims for California income tax, the federal tax remains a serious concern for fire victims until a federal bill is passed into law.

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Except for AB-1249, California Too The confusingly even numbered bill, SB-1246, was recently enacted. This new California law excludes from income any settlement payments received from Southern California Edison in connection with the Thomas or Woolsey fires. Similarly to AB-1249, SB-1246 only affects California income tax. Therefore, fire victims in the Thomas and Woolsey fire should also continue to consider their fire recovery when they do their own thing. federal Tax with the IRS.

This does not mean paying tax on every dollar. In some cases, no recovery will be subject to current tax. But it may take as simple as turning the gross settlement figure into a viable tax reporting strategy that is defensible to the IRS and (for California, to the Franchise Tax Board). Fire victims should pay an account, including attorney’s fees. Most fire victim litigants use contingency fee attorneys. Incidental legal fees may be paid separately to plaintiff attorneys, but it is still attributed to the plaintiff for tax purposes. this is how Legal fees are treated under the tax law,

As of 2018, legal fees were generally tax deductible. But under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in late 2017, many legal fees are no longer deductible. Miscellaneous itemized deductions, which accounted for most of the legal fees, were repealed for the 2018 to 2025 tax years. Accordingly, in some cases, litigants may not be able to deduct fees even if 40 per cent or more of their recovery is paid to their lawyers. lawyers must Too Fees pay tax, so some argue that it is a form of double taxation. In any event, the tax treatment of legal fees has become a major tax problem associated with many types of lawsuits, but there are 12 ways to deduct legal fees under the new tax laws,

Fortunately, for fire victims, there is a good way to deduct or offset legal fees, for both federal and California income tax purposes. If the fire recovery can be treated as a capital gain, the legal fee can be treated as an additional basis or sales expense in the home. Of course, this still leaves a lot of tax issues to be addressed. How fire victims are taxed depends on their circumstances, what they ultimately collect, and what they claim on their taxes.

Let’s say you lose a $1 million home, but collect $1 million from your insurance carrier or PG&E. it could be sound As if there’s nothing to tax, because you lost a $1 million house, and just got $1 million back. However, you should be aware of your tax Base in the property. This usually means the purchase price, plus the cost of subsequent improvements. If it was commercial property, you need to take depreciation (and depreciation recapture) into account.

But even with personal use property like a home, your Aadhaar matters. The property may be worth $1 million if it is destroyed, but if the original purchase price and improvements were only $100,000, there is a profit of $900,000. Does this mean our fire victim will have to pay tax on the $900,000 profit? Not necessarily. Fortunately, subject to requirements and limitations, the tax law may treat this as an involuntary conversion despite the $900,000 profit. If you qualify, you can apply your old $100,000 tax basis to a replacement home.

That means you don’t need to pay taxes on that $900,000 profit until you eventually sell it. Replacement House. To defer a contingent gain by reinvesting insurance or lawsuit proceeds, the replacement property typically must be purchased within two years of closing. first the year in which any Part of the casualty benefit is recovered. For a federally declared disaster, the period is extended to four years.

However, if your insurance company paid you enough money to make up even $1 of the taxable gain on your destroyed property, the clock has already begun for getting the replacement property. Another big issue is claiming casualty damages. As of 2018, many taxpayers could claim a casualty loss on their tax return. But starting in 2018 and continuing through 2025, casualty damages are only allowed if your loss was the result of a federally declared disaster. Many fire victims in California qualify, as most major California wildfires are a federally declared disaster. Even so, it may still take some careful planning and guesswork in determining whether claiming damages is a good move.

Another tricky issue is how to handle expenses for temporary housing and similar expenses. If your primary residence is damaged or destroyed, your sum insured may be partially tax-exempt for the purpose of compensating for your living expenses. Examples are replacement housing and meals. But, if the sum insured pays you for living expenses then you will have generally If your home was not damaged, such as your mortgage payment or your typical meal expenses, that portion may be taxable. revenue To you. If insurance income exceeds the actual amount you spent on temporary housing, food, and other living expenses, that surplus may also be taxable.

In short, even insurance proceeds raise finer tax issues, and with lawsuit recovery the tax stakes get bigger. How will that be taxed for the victims that ultimately lead to a legal settlement or decision? Fire recovery is highly factual, so the issues are complicated to assess How is a fire recovery tax levied?, Some fire cases involve wrongful death, and compensatory wrongful death damages are tax-free. Punitive damages are always taxable. Some victims experience bodily injury or physical illness, either caused by or exacerbated by a fire. Fortunately, Section 104 of the Tax Code excludes loss of income for personal bodily injuries or physical illness. For money to be tax-free, the loss must be physical, not just emotional.

Health problems resulting from smoke inhalation or aggravation of pre-existing medical problems may be enough to cause tax-exempt damages. Some of the drawings required by tax law may seem artificial. Most emotional distress damages are fully taxable, but emotional distress resulting from physical injury or physical illness is tax-exempt. it can make Taxing the loss of emotional distress and physical illness can seem like a chicken or an egg. issues.

The major object in most fire cases is property damage or destruction. It can be a multifunctional object, consisting of a house, outdoor buildings, trees and shrubs, crops and more. It is also important to consider the actions of the taxpayer. Are you rebuilding or moving away? This will all play into how the IRS will tax the fire victim. If you don’t reinvest, you could have a sizable capital gain, claiming a primary residence tax benefit of up to $500,000 if you qualify.

If you are selling a primary residence and qualify, the first $500,000 in profit for a married couple filing jointly must be tax-free. The remaining amount should be taxed as capital gain. But keep in mind that this is only a federal tax benefit. When it comes to California taxes, remember that all income is taxed at up to 13.3 percent, so capital gains are also no bargain.

Obviously, many fire victims expect that they won’t incur any taxes when they collect money from their insurance company or PG&E or Edison. If they are moving their income into buying a new home or rebuilding, they may end up with a lower basis in the new home, but this will mean paying taxes when they eventually sell their home. . But there can be some surprising alliances in matters of fire that are important to avoid.

Credit: www.forbes.com /

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