For the purposes of claiming a casualty loss in tax filings, can stocks be valued at their current par or is their value only what it was at the time of the loss?

My situation is that I have stock that was held by company that went bankrupt due to fraud. The bankruptcy trustee has valued the loss of the account holders, including myself, according to the value of their holdings at the time of the bankruptcy. So in other words, my stock was worth, say, $100,000 at the time of the bankruptcy, so according to the trustee my claim against the company is for that amount.

However, for tax purposes, eventually I will be able to declare a casualty loss because fraud was involved. I will claim this loss when the bankruptcy is settled. So, for example, lets say that in the settlement I get $50,000. Then, against my creditor claim I have lost $50,000. However, let's say the value of the stock lost has gone up to $300,000 in the meantime.

Can I claim a $250,000 loss to the IRS, or can I only claim the creditor loss of $50,000?

More Info

Note that this question revolves around Casualty Loss deduction.

Theft losses are generally deductible in the year you discover the property was stolen unless you have a reasonable prospect of recovery through a claim for reimbursement. In that case, no deduction is available until the taxable year in which you can determine with reasonable certainty whether or not you'll receive such reimbursement.

Because of this I cannot estimate the loss until the bankruptcy settles. The IRS guidance says the following:

The amount of your theft loss is generally the adjusted basis of your property because the fair market value of your property immediately after the theft is considered to be zero.

So, it comes down to how the "adjusted basis" is to be calculated.

Note: I did not have stock in the company. They were holding the stock and other assets for me and other clients as a trustee. They STOLE stock and money belonging to their clients. They were apparently planning to later buy it back so noone would ever know, but they went bankrupt before that happened. So me and the other clients essentially have a claim on a bankrupt company. Eventually when the bankruptcy settles, the clients will get back some fraction of their assets. For non-monetary assets (like stock), the bankruptcy trustee has valued them at their market value at the time of the bankruptcy.

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    What is your basis in the original position in the example? It's part of a minimum test: " the amount of your casualty loss is the lesser of: The adjusted basis of your property, or The decrease in fair market value of your property as a result of the casualty" irs.gov/taxtopics/tc515.html
    – user662852
    Jul 28, 2017 at 15:36
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    I don't know of too many situations in law where you can claim a loss based on what "would have" happened, because they make too many assumptions. For instance, you're effectively asserting that if not for the fraud, you would have held the stock until the present day. What if it had gone down to $60,000? Would you have accepted that you could only claim a loss of $10,000? Or would you say "no way I would have ridden the stock all the way down, I would have sold at $90,000"? You can't have it both ways. Jul 28, 2017 at 15:38
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    For that matter, why not say: "If not for the fraud, I would have sold the stock and bought XYZ instead, which went up to $2,000,000, so my loss is $1,950,000"? If you go down that road, there's no limit to the shenanigans. Jul 28, 2017 at 15:39
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    Your stock was stolen from you (as in you used to own shares in Company A, and you no longer do, because some other person now holds those shares and/or illegitimately sold them without your consent, or similar), or you have stock that is valueless due to bankruptcy? I'm not entirely sure I understand the details of the question at this point.
    – Joe
    Jul 28, 2017 at 16:59
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    @FiveBagger, Re: Embezzlement by an insider; wouldn't this loss then be captured by the organization, not by the shareholders of the organization?
    – quid
    Jul 28, 2017 at 18:32

1 Answer 1


You are not the person or entity against whom the crime was committed, so the Casualty Loss (theft) deduction doesn't apply here. You should report this as a Capital Loss, the same way all of the Enron shareholders did in their 2001 tax returns. Your cost basis is whatever you originally paid for the shares. The final value is presumably zero. You can declare a maximum capital loss of $3000, so if your net capital loss for the year is greater than that, you'll have to carry over the remainder to the following years.

IRS publication 547 states:

Decline in market value of stock. You can't deduct as a theft loss the decline in market value of stock acquired on the open market for investment if the decline is caused by disclosure of accounting fraud or other illegal misconduct by the officers or directors of the corporation that issued the stock. However, you can deduct as a capital loss the loss you sustain when you sell or exchange the stock or the stock becomes completely worthless. You report a capital loss on Schedule D (Form 1040). For more information about stock sales, worthless stock, and capital losses, see chapter 4 of Pub. 550.

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    I'm not sure you parsed the question correctly. If another company was holding stock on his behalf, and that company filed bankruptcy proceedings, that's different than him being invested in a company that did the same. Jul 28, 2017 at 19:12
  • @NathanL: That's possible. I parsed it as, "I owned stock in ENE, and ENE went bankrupt due to fraud." You're suggesting that the case might be "I owned stock in GOOG that was held by Fly-By-Night-Brokerage-R-Us, and Fly-By-Night-Brokerage-R-Us went bankrupt due to fraud." OP can clarify, but the first is the more common case.
    – shoover
    Jul 28, 2017 at 19:44
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    I'm sure the first is more common, but I can't imagine a scenario where that happened AND the stock doubled while the issue was winding its way through the courts. Jul 28, 2017 at 19:55
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    @FiveBagger Thanks for clarifying. In that case, this answer IS incorrect because it makes an incorrect assumption. Should I delete it, leave it to be voted down, or change it to be correct?
    – shoover
    Jul 28, 2017 at 21:25
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    @FiveBagger: you should update your question to clarify that aspect, as it isn't clear in what you have written. Jul 28, 2017 at 21:49

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