Frozen out, but defrosting taxes
Tax moves to make in February 2023

Don't fall for post-disaster scams. Do claim any tax breaks.

Live Oak limbs snapped1
Photo by Kay Bell

All things considered, we got through last week's Central Texas ice storm pretty well. Yes, I whined about no power, hence no heat for 3½ days, but we piled on enough clothes to mimic the Michelin Man, and used our grill to cook previously frozen food before it spoiled.

As for our property, our oldest and biggest tree, a live oak, lost just three limbs. Two, shown above, fell in our backyard; the other snapped on the other side of the fence and fell into our neighbor's yard.

The neighbor had a clean-up crew over at his place this morning. He also has several big oaks in his front yard that apparently sustained damage.

The hubby and I, however, should be able to hack these branches, and a couple that fell off a raggedy cedar I've wanted to take down for years, and schlep them to curb for city pickup next week.

Needy neighbors, greedy "help": Other neighbors, however, are looking to follow my immediate neighbor's move and hire crews to take care of extensive debris removal.

And according to exchanges on Next Door, there is some bigtime price gouging going on out there. Take this neighbor's post:

"I just got a quote for branch and debris removal — $6,500 to start. I am hearing people getting quoted $2,000-$4,000 for the day. I know we have a lot of trees that need to be hauled off and we need someone that has a wood chipper, crew to climb trees and seal off for oak wilt. We need a company that does this for a living already, and not just someone jumping in due to the current circumstances. They need to be licensed and bonded. Please share your honest, reliable, professional companies with me."

In times of natural disaster, whether officially declared or just an obvious mess, property owners need to follow my social media sharing neighbor's example.

Scammers cause further disaster injuries: After every disaster, unscrupulous folks take advantage of people whose lives have been at best dramatically disrupted, at worst destroyed. They promise quick repairs and/or help in maneuvering storm assistance red tape to storm victims.

As longtime homeowners, the hubby and I have dealt with our share of catastrophes that Mother Nature threw our way, including blizzards in Maryland and several hurricanes when we lived in Florida.

Again, we were very lucky compared to many others. But we also were eager to do whatever we could as quickly as we could to get things back like they were, or as close as possible, and return to a normal life.

But we did learn from those experiences. And I'm following the suggestions I made in my earlier recovery scams post. It went up last fall after Hurricane Ian, so it's still timely.

That post has details you can check out, but here are its nine tips as a preview so that you don't fall prey to the inevitable clean-up and repair scams that always follow disasters, be they major or just pains in the derriere.

  1. Be wary of crews showing up to clean up.
  2. Check out all companies offering disaster deals.
  3. Be alert for government imposters.
  4. Get more than one estimate.
  5. Get it in writing.
  6. Never pay all up front.
  7. Never pay in cash.
  8. Don't fall for rental scams.
  9. Check out federal tax relief.

Special disaster tax claim options: Now about #9. When a natural disaster is severe enough, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will investigate and let the White House know. The president then can declare a major disaster.

That means you'll get a variety of federal assistance, including tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

One IRS tax break to examine is whether you can claim any uninsured, unreimbursed disaster losses on your taxes. You'll have to itemize to do so. Another earlier post on what to consider when making a major disaster tax claim has more on this process.

Those earlier storm-related blog posts are this weekend's Saturday Shout Out. Yeah, it's a shameless bit of self-promotion, but I'm not quite up to speed yet. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Winter weather elsewhere: Now, I'm off to help, and by help, I mean watch, the hubby move patio plants from the garage back to their places in today's warming sunlight.

And examine all our trees a bit more closely.

And be thankful that we have power again.

And, now that Mother Nature has taken her frigid ways to the Northeast as a Polar Vortex, be thinking of all y'all hunkering down up there. Stay warm and safe!

When the weather clears, I hope you come out as lucky as we did. If not, don't fall for repair scams.

And if you get special federal tax relief, take it.

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