Legend has it that an exotic dancer was once allowed to deduct the cost of ‘enhancements’ as a business expense. That one may just be a popular tax-geek myth — but there are plenty of verified, documented cases of weird and wonderful tax deductions our fellow Americans have attempted to claim.
Some are understandable (like bath oil for dry skin), some are hilarious, and many were denied — but a few were actually allowed by the IRS. Let’s get right to ‘em, shall we?
5 Strange Allowed Tax Deductions
1. Boarding school. Travel, room & board were allowed as medical expenses for sending a young child with respiratory problems to a boarding school in Arizona. Stringham, L. Keever, (1949) 12 TC 580
2. Cat food. The IRS allowed cat food as a business expense because it was used to attract wild cats to deter snakes from a scrap yard. Samuel T. Seawright, Et Ux., (2001) 117 TC No. 24
3. Organic food. In one case, the difference between the cost of chemically uncontaminated food and regular chemically-treated food was allowed as a medical deduction. Randolph, Theron, (1976) 67 TC 481
4. Clarinet lessons. The cost of a clarinet and clarinet lessons were both allowed as medical deductions to help a child’s overbite. Rev. Rul. 62-210
5. Posing oil. A professional bodybuilder was allowed a business deduction for “ProTan Muscle Juice Professional Posing Oil.” Note: The same taxpayer was denied deductions for his buffalo meat and vitamin shakes. Wheir v. Comm. (T.C. Summ. Op. 2004-117)
The denial pile, as you might imagine, is a bit more creative. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below.
Our Favorite Bizarre Denied Tax Deductions
- Memory theft. A taxpayer was denied a theft loss deduction for the theft of photographs, souvenirs, college papers, and other “memories” she claimed her landlord had illegally removed from storage and thrown away. Wang v. Comm. (T.C. Summ. Op. 2004-119)
- Broken china & glassware. Dishes were broken by the family pet. Bummer, for sure — but it wasn’t considered deductible as a casualty loss. Diggs, Robert, (1959) TC Memo 1959-99
- Carpet removal. An allergic taxpayer tried to deduct the removal of carpets as a medical expense. It was denied — as was the cost of installing hardwood floors in their place. Mitic, Ilija, (2000) TC Memo 2000-144
- Salad. The cost of lettuce & tomato was not allowed as a medical expense for a diabetic on a restricted diet. The same person also tried to deduct artificial sweeteners and reduced-salt foods. Nope! Harris, J. Willard, (1966) 46 TC 672
- Dog boarding costs. Denied as a business (travel) expense while the taxpayer was away from home. Baratelle, Kenneth Andrew, (2000) TC Memo 2000-359
- English setter. The dog ran away. Casualty loss deduction disallowed. Smith, Waddell, (1948) 10 TC 701
- Dentures. Though a set of false teeth enabled an actor to enunciate without a hiss, they were not allowed as a business deduction. Sparkman, Edward v. Com., (1940, CA9) 25 AFTR 285
- Dancing lessons. Not deductible as medical expense to improve varicose vein problem. Adler, Irving v. Com., (1964, CA9) 13 AFTR 2d 1175. Also: not deductible as medical expense to ease arthritis and a nervous condition. France, Rose, (1980) TC Memo 1980-215
- Mink coat. Not allowed as a business deduction for taxpayer’s wife to wear to business functions. Jackson, Paul, (1954) TC Memo 1954-235
- Arson. A Pittsburgh, PA owner of a failing furniture store paid an arsonist to burn down his store. He reported the insurance as income, but deducted the $10,000 paid to the arsonist as a “consulting fee”—and admitted fact that to the IRS on audit. Yeah.
Have you ever tried to claim an unusual tax deduction? Tell us about it in The H&R Block Community!