Millions of taxpayers write off billions of dollars of deductions on their tax returns every year. Business expenses, itemized deductions and student loan interest are just some of the expenditures routinely claimed by both individual and corporate taxpayers who incur qualified expenses. But many taxpayers would be surprised to discover some of the things that qualify as legitimate deductions. The following expenses can be written off by taxpayers in the appropriate circumstances. (For related reading, also check out 10 most Overlooked Tax Deductions.)
IN PICTURES: 9 Ways To Use A Tax Refund
If you were foolish enough to make a loan to your good-for-nothing brother in law to help him start a business that never materialized, then you can write this off on your return as long as you never received a single payment. Unlike business bad debts, personal bad debts must be totally worthless or completely uncollectible in order to be deductible.
Foreign High Rollers
For wealthy foreign gamblers, the U.S. is the place to be when it comes to placing their bets. The IRS decreed that any money won by foreign gamblers from dog or horse races in the U.S. is tax-free to them. Meanwhile, American taxpayers get racked for 30% withholding on all gambling income.
Ridiculous Medical Expenses
In 1962, the IRS allowed a taxpayer to deduct the cost of clarinet lessons for a child, because a doctor's note stated that this would help the child to correct an overbite. The IRS has become increasingly liberal in allowing medical deductions over the years, permitting deductions for expenses such as hot tubs, sex therapy, consultations with witch doctors and diet food in some cases. One couple was even allowed to deduct the cost of sending their son to a boarding school in Arizona in order to help the boy with his respiratory problems.
The IRS permitted the owner of a scrap yard to deduct the cost of cat food that he purchased and set in various places around the yard. The food drew cats, which then scared off the large number of snakes that were creeping around the place. This presumably was good for business, so the IRS decided that it was a business expense. (Learn more about business expenses in 10 Tax Benefits For The Self-Employed.)
IN PICTURES: 4 More Can't-Miss Health Deductions
The Breast Expense for Exotic Dancers
Yes, the IRS actually did permit an exotic dancer who received breast implants to claim a depreciation deduction for the cost of their installation on her taxes.
Ship that Pup
The IRS allowed one canny taxpayer to deduct the cost of shipping his canine companion to his new home. (Both the taxpayer and the dog howled in delight.)
Greasing the IRS
Despite their prohibition of body building foods as an expense, the IRS did allow for the deduction of the oils used to grease the bodies of professional weightlifters. Now, there's a deduction that you can (body) build on!
The Bottom Line
Well, there you have it. Believe it or not, the IRS has actually allowed other taxpayers to deduct these expenses, which means that there's a chance that you could deduct something a little unusual too, given the right circumstances. (For more information on deductions, see An Overview Of Itemized Deductions.)
For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: FBI Insider-Trading Bust.