Every year, Bankrate publishes a list of “zany” tax deductions culled from the files of accountants around the country. Here are the highlights from this year’s list.
1. A hair-raising experience. Laura Cullen, a CPA in Fresno, Calif., says a new client tried to pull the hair over her eyes. “We had a client that had been transferred to the United States from another country,” she said. “The first year I did his personal tax return, being aware that you could itemize your medical expenses, he asked me to expense his hair transplant. I had a heck of a time explaining why I couldn’t.”
2. Friends with tax benefits. Changes to the traditional American household can make for some jaw-dropping deductions, according to Los Angeles forensic accountant Susan Carlisle.
“I was surprised to find that a husband, who had left the family home to live with his gay partner, (listed) both his wife and the partner, along with his children, as dependents on his tax returns in the same year, prior to being officially divorced,” she recalls. The husband could claim the live-in boyfriend as a “qualified relative” because he shared the same residence, was a member of the husband’s household, earned less than the exemption amount and derived more than half of his total support from his new partner.
3. The agoraphobic swimmer. Clients have long tried to talk Los Angeles CPA Rob Seltzer into allowing them to deduct their new swimming pools, but this argument actually worked.
“My client incurred a severe back (and) neck injury,” Seltzer recalls. “After he had surgery, his doctor determined that swimming was the only form of exercise that he could do without risking further damage. In addition, if someone inadvertently collided with him while he was swimming laps, he could face reinjuring himself. So the only option that could give my client a safe form of exercise and rehabilitation was in his own lap pool.”
4. Some foreign intrigue. Gail Rosen, a CPA in Martinsville, N.J., was blindsided by one eye-popping business expense on a client’s return. “My client is a painter, and he gave us his air fare to Brazil as a deduction,” she recalls. “When I questioned the air fare, he said he went to Brazil to get spatulas.”
5. Doesn't have a prayer. Tax season may cause some to seek deliverance, but one taxpayer took it too far, says an anonymous ex-CPA. “This client was in the fitness business. As we were going through his return, he says, ‘Oh, and I built a prayer room that I’d like to take as a charitable deduction.’
“I said, ‘Well, it’s in your house, right? And you’re not a minister. So unless your religion is a recognized charity or church, those payments come out of your own pocket.’ He got quite angry when I said there’s just no way, dude.”
6. Business before pleasure. A Dallas CPA named Sean had a saleswoman client list a $14,000 breast enhancement as a business expense. “I explained that this isn’t a business expense. Medical expenses are on Schedule A; they’re itemized deductions, and this doesn’t even qualify for that because it’s elective surgery,” Sean says. “She said, ‘But that’s why I spent so much money; I wanted to get the best I could!’
“So I said, ‘Look, let’s approach this like you would a car. Do you have records of when you used them for business reasons and when you used them for personal reasons? Are there maintenance fees associated with them?’ She said, ‘What?! I can’t tell you that!’ and I said, ‘Exactly. And we can’t write them off.’
“There are only one or two professions that are allowed to write those off, and there’s no pole involved here,” he added.
Source: "8 zany tax deductions to avoid claiming," Jay MacDonald, Bankrate.com
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