Whether it's fire, flood, hurricane, or earthquake, natural disasters throw a family's life into utter chaos. While you're physically picking up the pieces, don't forget to pick up the financial pieces as well. And to do so, a certified public accountant may be one of your greatest assets.

Why? Here are a few ways a professional accountant can help you after a disaster loss.

1. Tax Deductions. The IRS provides tax deductions for casualty losses not covered by insurance. There are a number of rules governing this deduction, though, so it's not something you should do on your own. First, you must value the lost property correctly and determine if it fits the casualty loss definitions. Then, you will need to subtract insurance and other reimbursement. Finally, you will need to itemize deductions, so your CPA will guide you through finding other eligible deductions to include. 

2. More Time for Taxes. If your loss occurred in an area designated as a federal disaster area, you generally have additional time to get your taxes in order. Your CPA will help you apply for this extension (both federally and at the state level) as well as determining what you need to replace or reconstruct in order to file taxes. 

3. Assessing Your Situation. After a big disaster loss (like housing, lives, or employment), you need to assess where your family stands financially. No matter whether things seem bleak or they seem surprisingly good when you look at your own post-disaster finances, an objective third party can help you know the real situation. If you lost an income stream or a large asset, a CPA can help you figure out what to do next. If getting outside assistance, they will guide you in knowing how this affects your taxes and eligibility for programs. 

4. Identifying Options. There is some assistance for those suffering from sudden disasters, but you have to know what it is and how to access it. Look for an accountant who has aided clients experiencing large losses before. They will have tips about how to figure the market value of goods, agencies that provide emergency funds, and how to obtain copies of necessary financial and life documents. 

While it's never easy to recover after you lose a home, a loved one, or your life's work, working with experienced professionals can help tremendously. Make sure you have a qualified CPA on your team to make your transition as smooth as possible.