Second Circuit: Co-op Owner is Entitled to Casualty Loss

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the Tax Court's decision that a New York City co-op owner, Ms. Alphonso, could not deduct casualty losses that occurred on grounds owned in common with other cooperative shareholders.

The Tax Court held that Ms. Alphonso could not take a deduction for a casualty loss because she did not hold a property interest in the damaged property. The damage in question occurred when a retaining wall along the common property of the cooperative apartment building collapsed. The co-op shareholders contributed to the necessary repairs and clean-up. Ms. Alphonso took a deduction of about $23,000 for her share of the repairs, claiming that it qualified as a casualty loss under under IRC § 165(c)(3).

The Tax Court did not address the merits of the casualty loss claim. Rather, the Court ruled as a matter of law that Ms. Alphonso did not hold a "sufficient" property interest in the common area of the apartment building to qualify for the deduction.

The Second Circuit vacated the Tax Court holding that although Ms. Alphonso's interest in the damaged common area was not exclusive with respect to her fellow tenant shareholders it was still a property right. Thus, the "property" element of section 165(c)(3) was satisfied. The Second Circuit remanded the case to the Tax Court for further proceedings on whether the claimed damages qualified as a casualty loss.

Read the Second Circuit's opinion here:
Alphonso v. Commissioner, No. 11-2364 (2d Cir. Feb. 6, 2013)

Read the Tax Court opinion here.

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