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Property tax appeals likely in wake of new federal deduction limit on state and local taxes

An active 2018 hurricane season could be complicated by new limits on casualty tax loss claims

Aligned hurricanes 2017
Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose (left to right) lined up last September, each possibly headed for landfall. (National Hurricane Center radar image)

A key forecast group expects the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season to be even more active than normal.

That is not what people who endured Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma last year and are, in some areas, still struggling to recover, wanted to hear.

Dr. Phil Klotzbach and his team at Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project are forecasting 14 named tropical storms this hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Mother Nature and her storms, however, don't always follow human calendars.

The CSU scientists and researchers, whose annual forecast has been the season's annual benchmark since 1984, predict half of the named storms will become hurricanes. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its wind speed reaches 74 mph.

Both the 14 and 7 projections are above the annual average of 12 and six, respectively.

Delving deeper into the outlook for hurricanes in 2018, the CSU projection is for seven of the hurricanes to reach major status, either category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir/Simpson scale. This means they will have sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.

The 2018 predictions will be updated on May 31, July 2 and Aug. 2.

Not number, but location: Of course, there's the old saying that it doesn't matter how many hurricanes there are, but how many will make landfall and where.

The CSU analysis is not encouraging here. It says there is a slightly above-average chance for major hurricanes to make landfall along the U.S. coastline. Klotzbach says there's a 64 percent chance a major hurricane will strike the United States.

The annual hurricane season forecast is worrisome enough, but folks who live in areas that are often storm targets have something else to worry about. 

Unless they are hit by a major, devastating hurricane in 2018, they won't get any tax help for their recovery efforts.

Previously, individuals who sustained damage from a storm of any size could claim uninsured loss amounts as an itemized deduction.

This tax deduction, officially known as nonbusiness casualties and thefts, also was available for various claims of property losses, ranging from those caused by fire, shipwreck, other casualties or theft, including larceny, embezzlement, robbery and Ponzi-type investment schemes

Less losses, more problems: However, claiming such losses now is even more limited than before.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that took effect on Jan. 1, only losses attributable to federally declared major disasters can be claimed.

That tax law revision leaves folks in the unenviable position of hoping for all or nothing when it comes to storms. If they are spared, good for many, many reasons, including not needing tax help to recover.

But if they're in the terrible cone of probability (possibility, uncertainty, terror; you pick the name), they could be hit by a tropical system and suffer serious and costly damage, but not have it be severe enough to be designated a major storm.

In these cases, they could not get any added tax help to offset their uninsured losses.

Storm prep even more crucial: If you are a hurricane country resident, I feel for you.

The hubby and I lived for six years on Florida's east coast and were there in 2004, the year where almost every square foot of the Sunshine State was hit by four hurricanes. We were struck by two 'canes within three weeks.

That's why, even without the prediction of a busier than normal 2018 hurricane season, you need to start preparing now. A key part of that preparation is, if you can afford it, buy storm insurance.

Don't wait. Once the hurricane season nears, many insurance providers will not issue policies. And since you might not be eligible for federal tax help after a storm, you might need that coverage more than ever.

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