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Unusual Tax Breaks, Tax Deductions, and Tax Exemptions

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The United States tax code allows for many unusual but legitimate tax deductions, tax credits, and exemptions. Here is a sampling of some of the more noteworthy unusual tax breaks that have been successfully claimed. Some of these might even apply to you…

1. Are pet moving expenses deductible?

If you lost your job and you are relocating to start a new job, you might know that these expenses are generally tax deductible (you must meet a few requirements). You might not know that the expense of moving your cat, dog, bird, python, or whatever pet you might have from your current or old home to your new home is treated the same as moving your other personal properties.

2. Can clarinet lessons be a deduction?

A parent was able to deduct the expenses for clarinet lessons for her child because she claimed it corrected her child’s overbite. This was based on a 1962 case where an orthodontist argued that playing the clarinet helps correct a child’s overbite


Source: James Robert, Flickr.

3. Can babysitter expenses be deducted?

A mother claimed her babysitter expenses as a deduction because she was performing charitable deeds while she was away from her child. This would mean that you pay somebody to look after your child while you work for no pay for a charity. In this case the tax court rejected and overruled an IRS revenue ruling when, despite not having the money go directly to a charity, a parent used the baby sitter expense as a charitable contribution while volunteering for a charity.

4. Are private airplane expenses deductible?

A couple owned and rented out a condo that was a 7 hour drive away from their primary residence. To save time and money they bought a private airplane and were able to deduct airplane expenses, like fuel and depreciation for business use, for the property management trips to their condo. However, it turned out that the expenses increased the overall loss on the rental condo.

5. Is cat food deductible?

Yes, under certain conditions the cost cat food might be considered a legitimate deductible expense. A junkyard owner bought cat food to attract local stray cats in order to drive away mice and rats. He claimed it as a business expense and it was approved by the IRS. The average house cat will likely not qualify because the cat would need to perform some task associated with the upkeep of a business.

6. Can a swimming pool be a tax deduction?

If you have a medical condition that would improve with a swimming pool exercise regimen, your swimming pool expenses might qualify as a deductible medical expense. That’s what happened in the case of an arthritis patient who was prescribed to swim frequently in order to treat his condition. He installed a swimming pool on his property and deducted the expenses from his taxes. After some investigation, the IRS approved the deduction, but if the pool were used for recreational purposes, it wouldn’t have been approved.

swimming pool

Source: Ian Britton, Flickr.

7. Is quitting smoking a deductible medical expense?

Yes, you might qualify to deduct expenses for smoking cessation programs, nicotine patches, stop-smoking aides, etc.

8. Is the cost of getting in shape deductible?

It is, if your doctor signs off on it, and tells you that your life might be in danger if you don’t start exercising and lose weight. The cost for remedies that help you drop a few pounds, improve your heart rate, or reduce your cholesterol might all be deductible.

9. Can a business trip qualify for a tax deduction?

Any business trip viewed as “ordinary and necessary” to the course of doing business by the IRS is eligible for a deduction. In one case, the owner of a dairy took a trip to Africa to conduct research on wild animals, and successfully claimed it as a business expense because it was relevant to his business.


Source: Sam Churchill, Flickr.

10. Can lawn care expenses be claimed as a deduction?

Yes, they might, but your house will have to be your workplace and the state of your lawn would have to have some relevance to the performance of your business. A sole proprietor successfully deducted lawn care expenses as business expenses because he met his clients in his home office.

11. Can the cost of body oil be deducted?

For one bodybuilder it worked. He claimed a deduction for the cost of body oil that he used in competitions. The IRS didn’t seem to have any problem with this, as it was a business expense.

12. Can you deduct the cost of beer?

If you are a business trying to attract customers, it might be deductible. A deduction was approved when one business deducted the cost of beer it used to attract customers and promote its business as a business expense.


Source: Felix, Flickr.

13. Can whaling boat repairs be claimed as a deduction?

Whaling boats need repairs and, since 2004, captains of whaling boats can deduct up to $10,000 for repairs, equipment purchases, and other expenses associated with the business. However, starting a whaling business to claim a deduction will not work for most people, since whaling is banned by the United States government and only Native American tribes are allowed to engage in it.

Some of these are quite surprising, right? If you are spending money for business purposes it seems that the IRS will approve it to being deductible. Many of us don’t realize how much money we invest into our business outside of the office. Share with us some of the unusual tax deductions you have claimed.

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