There’s an old adage that it never hurts to ask for something you want no matter how crazy the idea might sound. Judging by Tax Court rulings, the U.S. government takes that bit of wisdom to heart.
Considering the hard-hearted reputation of the IRS, some of the tax deductions approved over the years are stunning. But maybe that’s because we would have never thought to ask in the first place.
So let that be a warning for the timid. Of course for every strange tax break that won approval there are many that ended with a denial. As they said on “Hill Street Blues”: Be careful out there.
Still, these already-approved deductions might give some ideas on how to cut the amount you owe Uncle Sam.
We have the details of 8 Odd Deductions That Actually Worked, courtesy of efile.com and other websites.
1. Bulking Up
When bodybuilder Corey Wheir sat down to do his taxes, he decided to deduct certain expenses. There was the buffalo meat he ate and the vitamins he took to get that buffed look. And don’t forget the body oil he slathered on before each competition. After due consideration, the Tax Court ruled the body oil was a deductible business expense but not the other items.
2. Pet Project
Junkyards attract all sorts of unwanted pests. There are snakes, rats and other vermin. Getting rid of them is costly, but not taking care of the problem can keep skittish customers away. Samuel Seawright went natural with his solution, allowing wild cats to roam the property. To attract the felines, he put out food. The court ruled the kitty meals were a business expense and therefore deductible.
3. Kicking the Habit
If you have been stymied in your attempts to stop smoking, a tax deduction might be the extra incentive you need. The IRS allows deductions for qualified smoking cessation programs as well as aids that are available with a prescription.
4. Drunken Driving
Justin Rohrs had a good time at a party. Such a good time, in fact, that he decided to sleep before driving home. Unfortunately, he didn’t wait long enough. After his car skidded off the road, police arrested him for drunken driving. His insurance company refused to pay for the repairs to his vehicle, so Rohrs deducted them. The IRS objected, but the Tax Court ruled that since he took reasonable action to avoid driving under the influence, the deduction was reasonable, too.
5. Barking Dogs
Denise McMillan worked out of her condominium, but her neighbor’s barking dogs frequently interrupted her concentration. She sued her homeowner’s association, complaining about the dogs and about faulty construction that created noise problems. She deducted her $26,000 in legal fees, which included defending herself on a misdemeanor charge in the case. The Tax Court ruled in her favor, allowing a 50% deduction because her home was half used for business. The IRS, the court noted, had not proved the noise had not disrupted McMillan’s work.
6. Free Beer
Edward Sullivan, a gas station owner in Oklahoma, was looking for a way to attract customers. Free beer was the answer. When he deducted the cost, the IRS told him to put a cork in it. The Tax Court pulled the cork back out and let the deduction flow.
7. Gambling Losses
This only works if you have winnings during the year. The key is to keep records of your winnings and losses. Casinos issue tax form W2-G for winnings that exceed certain amounts. Any losses up to the amount of winnings can be deducted.
8. Deficit Spending
If you are particularly concerned about the U.S. debt (more than $18 trillion at last check), you can make a contribution to the government that’s fully deductible. According to a U.S. Treasury website, about $68,000 has been donated to the cause this year. As tax day approaches, the total might climb. Last year, more than $3 million was sent in.
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