Bad Debts
Federal Tax Course – Lesson 13

Introduction 1301
Debt Must be Worthless 1302
Amount of Deduction 1303
Business Bad Debts 1304
Nonbusiness Bad Debts 1305
When Deductible 1306
Loss on Deposits in Insolvent Financial Institutions 1307
Recovery of Bad Debts 1308


Bad Debts:

If money is owed to a taxpayer and the debt becomes uncollectible he may claim a “bad debt” deduction. The debt must be valid, legally enforceable, and in a fixed amount in order to be deductible. A gambling debt, for instance, in most states cannot be enforced and therefore will not qualify for a bad debt deduction. In the case of a debt owed by taxpayer’s relative the question arises as to whether it is a bona fide debt or merely a gift. If the circumstances indicate that the loan was made with a definite expectation of repayment, the deduction will be permitted. Otherwise, the deduction will be denied on the grounds that the taxpayer never really expected to receive his money back.

Example: Taxpayer loaned money to his son-in-law to go into a new business venture. He did not investigate whether the venture was sound or practical and the son-in-law had no means to secure the debt. The venture subsequently failed and the son-in-law was unable to repay the debt. No bad debt deduction is permitted because the taxpayer, by all indications, did not seriously expect repayment.

In particular, where loans are made to taxpayer’s children, the IRS will presume them to be gifts, unless the taxpayer is able to show convincing evidence to the contrary.

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