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Taxes and handcuffs

Posted: April 12, 2013 - 12:07pm

There are certain things that I abhor more than the thought of a visit to a farsighted proctologist with the hiccups. One is a root canal without anesthesia and another is doing taxes.

As you read this, you are either smirking because you filed for an extension on second day of January just to relieve the pressure or have, by now, diligently sent in your financial paperwork. Either way, I find myself envious yet totally disgusted by your actions because I’m, once again, exposed as one of those procrastinating slackers who whine more than a kennel full of hungry puppies when April 15 rolls around.

For those such as moi, this is a time for intense toil, mental sweat, and muttering expletives that would send a combat hardened vet diving for the nearest church.

My principal dilemma is finding appropriate write-offs that won’t send up enough red flags to get Eastern Russia’s attention, much less the IRS’s.

I’m convinced that I’ve messed up big time and failed to nail some vital deductions over the last few years because my buddies have been reaping refunds so huge they are able to produce full coverage for their annual brew tabs if they stay with domestic brands.

That’s wrong in so many ways — especially if they don’t share. (We’re talking suds here not their deductions. I wouldn’t touch one those unless I had an itch for a prison tattoo.)      

Anyway, I did some site surfing and came up with some interesting venues for retrieving a buck or two from those experts in Washington, D.C., who insist on spending our cash on such cool stuff as a $175,587 (http://reason.com/blog/2011/12/21/the-year-in-government-waste-bridges-to) “to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior”; or $216,000 (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/sen-tom-coburn-criticizes-wasteful-govern...) to study whether or not politicians “gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions.” I would have answered that last question for free if it included a clean swing at the idiot who came up with the idea.

Oh yeah, lest I forget. There was that professor at Stanford University who was given $239,100 (http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=774a6cca...) to study how Americans use the Internet to find love. (That should have been interesting depending on which sites he went to, especially if they took credit cards.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture also deserves some special recognition for giving researchers at the University of New Hampshire $700,000 (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/sen-tom-coburn-criticizes-wasteful-govern...) to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows. Rumor has it that it took most the funds just to pay out enough gold to find someone actually willing to stand there and collect the stuff.

Back to the deductibles:

How about pet food? You would think this idea would give a private accountant a seizure and have a government auditor oiling up the handcuffs. Nope, in special circumstances it can be allowed if you use a pet to protect your business, like the owner who deducted the price of cat food to feed his cat, who in turn, protected his business against bothersome rodents. In this case, the IRS agreed that the kitty performed a relatively important task in the maintenance and upkeep of the business. I figure to make that deduction worthwhile the beast must have had the appetite of Garfield or was the size of a Volkswagen bus. Yet, I could definitely see this as a significant write off for mutant Dobermans at a junkyard. It would keep the inventory safe, the curs happy and regular customers from disappearing during normal feeding hours.

I also discovered that the cost beer has been found deductible when an owner uses it to attract customers and promote his or her business. Hopefully, if this situation arises locally it will be prominently advertised for those wishing to aid the proprietor in increasing his potential refund.

The government has even allowed clarinet lessons to be deducted because they were used to help cure a kid’s overbite and has permitted bodybuilders to write off body oil as a business expense because it made their muscles gleam under the lights during competitions. It goes on and on.

Unfortunately, none of the above applies to this household.

Our dogs have the guarding instincts of concrete garden trolls and would give away the furniture for a Yummy Chummy. That’s a bummer because if I could write off Howard’s food bill it would cover several truck payments including insurance.

I must admit, though, that some avenues do open up for a columnist that others are not privy to.

Let’s say that I wanted to travel to Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland and write about the experience. Some of the trip would be deductible if I had the money to get there in the first place and could sell the piece to a publisher that didn’t think that I had made the whole thing up.

I haven’t been that lucky. So far, my freelance income has provided enough gas money for bi-monthly trips to Wally World in Kenai and I have yet to be offered serious bucks for an article on exploring its electronics section.

I think I’ll just take the standard deduction this time around. It’ll save IRS personnel from wasting their time recovering from bouts of hysterical laughter after my return hits their desk.  

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t busy buying a book of “forever” stamps with his refund.

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