You missed the warning signs and got suckered into a Ponzi scheme. The IRS offered some tax relief for long-term Ponzi scheme investors (like some of the Madoff victims) who have paid taxes on gains from the investment. The IRS clarified the federal tax law governing the treatment of losses in Ponzi schemes. They also set out a safe harbor method for computing and reporting the losses.
The revenue ruling (2009-9) addresses the difficulty in determining the amount and timing of losses from Ponzi schemes and the prospect of recovering the lost money. The revenue procedure (2009-20) simplifies compliance for taxpayers by providing a safe-harbor for determining the year in which the loss is deemed to occur and a simplified means of calculating the amount of the loss.
But what about state taxes?
California: On March 25, 2009, the California Franchise Tax Board announced that the federal guidance (Revenue Ruling 2009-9 and Revenue Procedure 2009-20) regarding the treatment of Madoff-related or other Ponzi scheme losses would be generally applicable for California purposes.
Connecticut: On April 9, 2009, the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services released Connecticut Announcement No. 2009(7), which describes the effect for Connecticut income tax purposes of the reporting of Madoff-related or other Ponzi scheme losses under the Revenue Procedure 2009-20 safe harbor and under Revenue Ruling 2009-9. In general, Connecticut does not allow federal itemized deductions for Connecticut income tax purposes. Thus, any theft loss deduction claimed by a taxpayer under the Revenue Procedure 2009-20 safe harbor will not affect a taxpayer’s 2008 Connecticut income tax liability. However, if the amount of a taxpayer’s theft loss deduction allowed under Revenue Ruling 2009-9 or Revenue Procedure 2009-20 creates an NOL, then the taxpayer must file amended Connecticut income tax return(s) for the year(s) to which such NOL may be carried back for federal income tax purposes.
Massachusetts: On March 20, 2009, Massachusetts issued: “Notice—Individual Investors; Investments in Criminally Fraudulent Ponzi-type Schemes and Reporting of Fictitious Investment Income.” Massachusetts did not adopt the Revenue Procedure 2009-20 safe harbor in the case of individual investors since Massachusetts tax law does not recognize the theft loss deduction provided under federal tax law.
New Jersey: On April 2, 2009, the New Jersey Division of Taxation had issued guidance on the treatment of Madoff-related
or other Ponzi scheme losses for New Jersey gross income tax purposes. Under this guidance, taxpayers are allowed a theft
loss deduction for New Jersey gross income tax purposes in an amount equal to the original investment plus the income
reported in prior years minus distributions received in prior years. New Jersey does not allow NOL carrybacks or carry
New York: On May 29, 2009, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance issued guidance TSB-M-09(7)I (.pdf) on the
reporting of Madoff-related or other Ponzi scheme losses. In general, New York State will recognize the Revenue Procedure
2009-20 safe harbor.
For more information, Seyfarth Shaw put together some information: Some States Have “Weighed In” on Tax Treatment of Madoff-Related and Other Ponzi Scheme Losses (.pdf)