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Form 4684, a disaster victim's best friend

Hurricane Irene is no more. She hit New York City this morning as a tropical storm and will continue to disintegrate as she moves northward.

Now comes the clean up.

Some folks are actually disappointed that Irene wasn't more destructive. These people are jerks.

More than a dozen people have died because of Irene.

More than four million homes and businesses are without power, not a pleasant condition with still steamy late summer temperatures hanging around.

And early estimates are that total damages will run around $7 billion.

Even when a storm's damage is relatively minimal, ask anyone who's dealing with it and they'll tell you you it was plenty bad.

And things aren't going to get much easier.

There's the actual physical effort of putting properties back together. That means dealing with insurance companies and contractors, two of my least-favorite things.

Many folks also will be sorting through disaster-related tax claims. If an area is declared a major disaster, the tax paperwork could come now. Others, even in very hard hit regions, will wait until they complete their 2011 returns.

In either case, storm victims will have to fill our Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts. And that form number is this week's By the Numbers figure.

Form 4684 casualty losses
In filling out Form 4684, you'll need to keep in mind a couple of other numbers: $100 and 10 percent.

The special disaster tax rules that were in effect for tax year 2008 and 2009 claims no longer apply. For those two years, there was no percentage of income to worry about, the amount of each loss was limited to amounts of more than $500 and losses could be claimed without itemizing.

Now, however, it's back to Schedule A claims.

In figuring your itemized disaster deduction you also once have to work with loss amounts that are more than $100. And you can only claim the amount of your losses that exceed your 10-percent-of-AGI amount.

Yes, it's a lot of numbers and figuring, especially when you have other pressing post-storm things on your mind.

But if the calculations can get your some added money to make repairs, then make use of today's By the Numbers featured figure, Form 4684.

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