Can I Write Off My Dog? (And Other Strange Deductions)
Every tax season, we see countless articles about tax deductions we’re all aware of. Office supplies, work-related travel, child rearing – the list goes on and on, and unless you just became a taxpayer, it’s probably old news. Instead of rehashing the obvious, today we’ll look into some weirder and less talked about deductions you might qualify for this year.
No – simply having a dog as a regular pet does not entitle you to a write-off. But if your dog serves an added purpose, it’s a different story. A 2006 Entrepreneur.com article explains the proper (and legal) method for deducting expenses related to your company’s guard dog. Aside from the fact that it helps “if you’re a little afraid of the animal yourself”, it’s also true that:
“…your dog most also be guarding your inventory. Another interesting tidbit: Though you can deduct expenses relating to the dog, you can’t deduct the dog itself. But you can depreciate it over its expected lifespan as determined by a local breeder. Who would’ve thought?”
Practically speaking, this means you can lawfully deduct the dog’s shots, food, kennel fees and things of that nature, but not the cost of actually purchasing the pooch. Go figure.
Seeing Eye Dogs
The other way to parlay man’s best friend into a tax deduction is to have a dog for medical reasons. The IRS offers the following guidance to anyone who has a guide dog or other service animal:
“You can include in medical expenses the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal to assist a visually-impaired or hearing-impaired person, or a person with other physical disabilities.”
Why you can write off the dog’s purchase price if it’s used for medical help (but not if it guards your corporate inventory) is not explained. Nevertheless, it’s a rule that you ought to be aware of when attempting to write off the costs of dog ownership on this year’s personal income tax return.
“Medically Necessary” Massages
It’s true – thanks to a 1962 modification of the tax code, it is actually 100% legal to deduct the cost of massage treatment if your doctor deems it “medically necessary.” As MSNBC explains, this requires you to keep hard records and doctor’s notes. If audited, you will be expected to produce this paperwork as proof that your deducted massage was actually necessary.
Interestingly, the same rule applies to aqua therapy and restrictive diets like Jenny Craig – again, provided that your doctor instructed it. As with other deductions, keep in mind that excessive write-offs are likely to trigger IRS suspicion. Do not write off any form of massage treatment that you cannot easily prove was needed.
Legal Fees For Illegal Activities
Amazingly, MSNBC also notes that you are entitled to deduct attorney’s fees – even if you’re on trial for serious crimes. Although you are obligated by law to pay taxes on income earned through illegal actions (including drug dealing, theft and bribery), the cost of hiring attorneys for your legal defense is 100% deductible from federal income taxes.
Everyone knows that homeowners can deduct the interest payments on home mortgage loans. So why shouldn’t someone who lives on a boat get the same courtesy? In fact (as long as a few rules are followed) they apparently can. The New York Times real estate blog tackled this question back in 2008, consulting with New York tax lawyer Julian Block.
Block confirmed that it is indeed possible to deduct interest payments on a boat loan as long as the boat itself was pledged as security. “If the houseboat is security for the loan, the deductibility of the interest would be subject to the same rules governing the deductibility of interest for a home.” The boat must also have “all the typical amenities” of a home, such as “cooking, sleeping and sanitation facilities.”
Need a last-minute tax deduction? Get fined for something. That was CNBC’s take in April 2010 when an NFL player got fined $30,000 for wearing a sombrero after a touchdown (and another $20,000 for flashing a dollar bill at a referee.) Though a fine like this would devastate those who aren’t earning $4.7 million per year, for this athlete, it was actually a welcome tax writeoff.
As sports tax accountant Robert Raiola told CNBC, fines are considered ordinary business expenses. The only caveat is that the fine must exceed two percent of a player’s total adjusted gross income (since the first two percent of employee business expenses are not eligible for deductions of any kind.) Anything beyond that is fair game.