IRS Guidance for Ponzi Scheme Losses

Document Type



Published by the New York Society of CPAs in The CPA Journal, volume 80 issue 2, 2010. Bryant users may access this article here.


New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants

Publication Source

The CPA Journal


Ponzi schemes have received much attention lately. In the Madoff scandal alone, investors have lost an estimated $50 billion. The victims of such schemes seek to recoup some, or all, of their losses through insurance, lawsuits, and tax relief. With regard to tax relief, until recently, there were issues regarding whether the losses were deductible as theft losses (IRC section 165(c)), or capital loses (IRC section 1211 and 1212). To resolve these and other issues, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2009-9 and Revenue Procedure 2009-20. Revenue Ruling 2009-9 addresses the amount, character, and timing of investment theft losses. Revenue Procedure 2009-20 provides simplifying assumptions (safe harbors) that taxpayers may use to report their investment theft losses. Prior to the IRS's issuance of guidance in the form of Revenue Ruling 2009-9 and Revenue Procedure 2009-20, there were questions about the treatment of losses sustained investors in Ponzi schemes. The IRS guidance resolves these questions in a taxpayer-friendly manner.