The Tax Problems Raised by Punitive Damages
The award of punitive damages for the bad faith conduct of their insurer resulted in a major tax consequence and not the windfall the plaintiffs thought they received. Because the Greenbergs could not convince the Tax Court of their position the Court not only slapped the Greenbergs down in affirming a tax deficiency of over $1 million, but further sanctioned them with an accuracy-related penalty, because the taxpayers had neither substantial authority, nor reasonable cause underlying their posture on the damage award. The Tax Court noted that the definition of gross income broadly encompasses any addition to a taxpayer’s wealth. Therefore, absent an exception by another statutory provision, damage awards from a lawsuit must be included in gross income.
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