Most people would do anything to lower their taxes, even if it means pushing their creativity to the limit. Ask any seasoned accountant, and you'll hear stories of folks who tried to claim the most insane deductions imaginable -- like the man who tried to write off the cost of hiring an arsonist to burn down his failing business, but got denied by the IRS, and rightfully so.
In fact, over the years, countless filers have attempted to push the limits of the tax code, and most have been glaringly unsuccessful. But apparently, in extremely rare cases, you can claim what can only be described as an outrageous deduction and actually get away with it. Here are a few of the wackiest tax deductions in history that, incredibly, managed to stick.
1. The cat food deduction
Normally, you can't deduct the cost of caring for a pet, nor can you claim one as a dependent. But in a 2011 case, a tax court ruled in favor of a California woman who wrote off more than $12,000 in expenses to care for the 70 -- yes, 70 -- cats she was fostering. Because she was working with a registered charitable organization, and you're allowed to deduct expenses that solely relate to foster animals, the court upheld 90% of her deduction for cat food and supplies. (Since she had seven cats of her own, she lost out on a portion of her original deduction). The woman was also allowed to deduct 50% of her cleaning and utility expenses, claiming that the foster cats were responsible for a portion of those costs.
RELATED: Here are a few crucial tax tips to keep in mind when filing your taxes this year:
Tax tips from the Finance Collective
Tax tips from the Finance Collective
"In the past I would typically contribute $1,000 and then direct my savings towards my Roth IRA. Once I maxed out my Roth IRA last year, which is $5,500 annually, I decided to increase my 401K contributions. Here's why:
-It's automatic; a 401K will automatically be withdrawn for every paycheck without testing your will power of getting paid, transferring money to a brokerage account and choosing your investments.
-It is not taxed yet so I can contribute more of my money and will be taxed in the future. The beauty of having both a 401K and a Roth IRA is that you have one account that's already been taxed and other that hasn't so your future retirement has already been partially taxed.
-401K contributions are tax deductible. The amount invested will be deducted from your gross income.
Not only did I save more I also am going to be in a lower tax bracket than 2015 even though I made more!" -Super Millennial
"With technology, the ability to create your own business is endless whether you are a photographer, coder, model, graphic designer, dancer, tutor, etc... the opportunities are endless. You are a self-starter and a go-getter and live by your craft but you don't often understand the financial and tax implications behind it.
You want to just concentrate on what you are good at and before you even realize it the money is coming in, fast and furious. Now the last thing you want to think about is taxes and cash flow plans etc. But you have no choice. So what are the basics?
Lets start with a 1099, which is a tax document for miscellaneous income; this is where all of your wages for freelancing will be documented for the year, just like a W2 which you may be familiar with. But unlike a W2, no tax deductions will be taken upfront from your wages. The benefit of the 1099 is that you have a little bit more lead room when it comes to planning for your taxes as well as options. #letsgetcreative
Option: Set up your own company, and absorb the 1099's through that company, instead of your individual name." -Orca Financial
"1. Get organized: Use this time to take inventory of your financial situation and see what you are succeeding with and what you are struggling with. The more you know about your finances, the easier it is to improve them.
2. Do not waste your refund: Resist the urge to blow your tax refund on frivolous items. Use the money that you get back from the IRS in a way that will set you up for future success, whether that means investing it or having it contribute to your emergency fund."
"When you receive a significant tax refund, it can be easy to think of it as a bonus or free money, which is likely why so many opt to spend it on something extraneous. Instead of running out and spending it as soon as you receive a check in the mail, stop and take the time to really think about what that money means.
It’s not extra money the government is merely giving you. It really means you gave (or the government kept) more of your hard-earned money than you needed to. Think about the fact that your refund is money you worked hard for, like another paycheck. By doing so, you might be more cautious with what you choose to spend it on.
PUT IT AWAY
Out of sight, out of mind, couldn’t be a truer statement. If you choose to put your refund right into your checking account, you make it all too easy to spend it. Opt to deposit your tax refund directly into an investment or savings account that isn’t easily reachable. By directly depositing it, you won’t have an opportunity to touch it or spend it in the first place. Moreover, depending on the savings account, you might not have access to it once it’s deposited, which is a surefire way to make sure you don’t waste it." -Everything Finance
"Use It As a Down Payment on a Home
If you’re planning on buying a house, you may have to come up with a big down payment depending on the market in your area. Your tax refund can help ease that financial burden or even jumpstart your house down payment fund and motivate you to deposit more each month.
When you buy a house, it’s best to put at least 20% down in order to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) which can add up each year.
Home repairs can be expensive and add up quickly. But upgrades and repairs can make your home a more comfortable place to live and even increase its value.
If you’ve been meaning to renovate your home or repair something that has been on your to-do list for a while, your tax refund can help so you don’t have to use your credit card or take out a loan." -My Debt Epiphany
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2. The breast enhancement deduction
In the early 1990s, an exotic dancer managed to successfully write off the cost of her breast augmentation surgery, claiming it was a necessary component of doing her job. The reason she got away with the deduction was that the court agreed that her breasts could be considered a uniform of sorts, which would normally be deductible under the tax code.
Here's the best part though -- for a work uniform to be tax-deductible, it must meet two criteria. First, it must be required as a condition of employment, and secondly, it must be attire that isn't suitable for everyday use. Because the dancer's breasts were enlarged to the point where they weighed 10 pounds apiece (yikes!), she claimed that if given the choice, she wouldn't have "worn" them outside of work. It was this distinction that apparently persuaded a judge to allow the write-off.
3. The drug lab casualty loss deduction
It's not very often that you see folks get rewarded for illegal activity. But when a chemistry-savvy entrepreneur purchased a building, turned it into a drug lab, and lost that property in a fire after a hot plate ignited his explosive chemicals, he claimed a $9,000 casualty loss on his tax return -- and won.
Some less risky options...
Entertaining as these stories might be, none of us should be fooled into thinking that these offbeat deductions are by any means the norm. More often than not, the IRS will deny deductions that aren't completely by the books, so if you're thinking of fostering a large family of guinea pigs to score a quick tax write-off, try again.
That said, there are plenty of legitimate deductions you can take to lower your taxes. If you're a homeowner, for instance, you can deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, points on your mortgage, property taxes, and PMI premiums (as long as your income isn't too high). If you're self-employed, you can deduct business expenses such as supplies, travel to client meetings, and a home office, if you meet the right criteria.
If you spend a lot on medical care, you might qualify for a medical expense deduction, which includes not just prescription drugs and in-office copays, but travel to and from appointments. You can also deduct donations to charitable organizations, even if they're of the non-cash variety.
Some other legitimate items you may be eligible to deduct include:
Job search costs
Tax preparation fees
Unreimbursed business expenses (even if you're a salaried employee)
Student loan interest
College tuition and fees
It pays to read up on the various deductions out there, because they could shave some serious money off your tax bill -- and you won't have to concoct a crazy story in order to claim them.
Taxpayers who upgrade their homes to improve energy efficiency or make use of renewable energy may be eligible for tax credits to offset some of the costs. As of the 2017 tax year, the federal government offers two such credits: the Residential Energy Efficiency Property Credit and the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit. The credits are good through 2017, except for the solar credits which are good through 2019 and then are reduced each year through the end of 2021. Claim the credits by filing Form 5695 with your tax return.