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Publication 17


A theft is the taking and removing of money or property with the intent to deprive the owner of it. The taking of property must be illegal under the laws of the state where it occurred and it must have been done with criminal intent. You do not need to show a conviction for theft.
Theft includes the taking of money or property by the following means.
The taking of money or property through fraud or misrepresentation is theft if it is illegal under state or local law.

Decline in market value of stock.(p169)

You cannot 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 Publication 550.

Mislaid or lost property.(p170)

The simple disappearance of money or property is not a theft. However, an accidental loss or disappearance of property can qualify as a casualty if it results from an identifiable event that is sudden, unexpected, or unusual. Sudden, unexpected, and unusual events are defined earlier.


A car door is accidentally slammed on your hand, breaking the setting of your diamond ring. The diamond falls from the ring and is never found. The loss of the diamond is a casualty.

Losses from Ponzi-type investment schemes.(p170)

If you had a loss from a Ponzi-type investment scheme, see: These losses are deductible as theft losses of income-producing property on your tax return for the year the loss was discovered. You figure the deductible loss in Section B of Form 4684. If you qualify to use Revenue Procedure 2009-20 and you choose to follow the procedures in Revenue Procedure 2009-20, you also must complete Appendix A of that procedure and write "Revenue Procedure 2009-20" across the top of Form 4684. For more information, see the above revenue ruling and revenue procedures.