When tax season rolls around, we all try to find ways to put more of our hard-earned money back in our wallets. There are plenty of common tax deductions, like charitable donations and home mortgage interest write-offs. But if you want to get the most deductions possible, you'll have to dig a little deeper -- and get creative.
[InvestingAnswers feature: 20 Tax Facts Most Taxpayers Don't Know]
Here are some of the strangest tax deductions that have been passed the scrutiny of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and/or U.S. Tax Court.
1. Bariatric Surgery
Want to lose a couple of inches this year? In 2002, the IRS ruled that obesity is a medical disease, which means that specific treatments aimed at curbing obesity are allowable deductions, including bariatric surgery. As with all medical expenses, you can only deduct unreimbursed expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
2. Cat Food
Don't get too excited about this one, cat lovers…unless you own a junkyard. Kiplinger tells of one junkyard-owning couple who wrote off the cost of cat food they placed around the property to attract feral cats. These felines ate more than the cat food -- they "controlled" rats and snakes that posed a safety hazard for customers. IRS lawyers at the Tax Court gave the cat chow their stamp of approval.
A gas station owner figured out a way to deduct his beer expense, and it stood up in tax court. The owner didn't drink it, he gave it away as a part of a promotion and was able to write off the cost as a business expense.
4. Addiction Treatment
Speaking of drinking, you probably know that too much is bad for your health. Drinking, smoking and drug abuse are serious medical hazards, so the IRS has ruled that you can write off expenses related to quitting. Eligible deductions can include the cost of any products or programs designed to help you quit, including nicotine patches or other aids.
In-patient treatment at a drug or alcohol facility including meals, lodging and some transportation expenses can also be deducted as medical expenses. Additionally, transportation to and from meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, if attended based on doctor's orders, can also be written off.
5. Body Oil
Because bodybuilders use quite a bit of the stuff to make their muscles look big and shiny during competitions, the IRS ruled that a bodybuilder can write off his or her oil expenditure as a business expense. However, the bodybuilder who originally challenged the IRS ruling regarding the oil wasn't successful in getting a pass to write off the buffalo meat he eats for extra protein.
6. Breast Augmentation
Plenty of men and women have a little work done these days. But one exotic dancer went under the knife to increase her earning power and wrote off the surgery as a business expense. The IRS challenged her, saying the surgery was cosmetic, but in tax court her lawyers argued the implants were "ordinary and necessary" for her line of work, thus deductible. The court agreed, although many of us would question how "ordinary and necessary" it is to increase your chest size to 56-FF.
7. Family Pet Transportation
Moving expenses are a well-known write-off, but it's not just your moving expenses that are covered -- it's your pets' as well. Need to buy a large crate for the St. Bernard or a shatterproof glass case for your boa constrictor? Keep the receipt and remember to deduct it.
8. Shaping Up
The IRS does not offer deductions for gym memberships, extreme workout DVDs or pilates machines. But, if your doctor tells you that your life is dependent on a healthier lifestyle, you could be an exception to the rule. Your doctor needs to vouch for your condition, but once he or she does, almost anything that you used to lose weight, lower cholesterol or cure what's ailing you can be eligible.
Everyone wants keep as much income as possible, and one of the best ways to lower your tax bill is by taking all the deductions you're entitled to. Do a thorough review, preferably with a professional tax preparer, to find all possible tax deductions. If you are self-employed, think of ordinary and necessary expenses for your work that aren't reimbursed.
A tax professional can give the most accurate and thorough advice for the lowest tax burden, so even if you are an ardent DIYer, it is best to have a pro at least review your return.
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