Tax Deductions You Won’t Believe Are Real

Tax season is in full swing and people are looking at their return and wondering about deductions they should include.  This month we are going to talk about tax deductions that are bit unusual but have been successfully deducted.   Some are a bit ridiculous and others are down right hilarious.  During such a stressful time, we wanted to provide some funny anecdotes.  

Free Beer, Anyone?

A service-station owner decided a good promotion for his business would be to offer his customers a free beer with a fill-up.   It is no surprise that gas sales increased considerably.  The Tax Court allowed the owner to deduct the cost of the beer as a business expense.  Looks like alcohol and gasoline do mix! 

Film Making

A lawyer had invested six years making a documentary film on a musical group.   The IRS tried to claim that the long series of annual losses indicated that this film was more of a hobby then a documentary film.  The judge reviewing the case attempted to suggest that documentary filmmaking is not-for-profit by nature.   This suggestion was so disturbing that several well-known filmmakers filed friend-of-court rulings saying that you can make money with documentaries. 

The court eventually ruled in her favor and allowed the deduction of the six-figure losses.  Furthermore it was noted that she acted in a businesslike manner – hiring staff including a bookkeeper, she bought insurance, consulted experts and even changed the story line in order to make the film more marketable, she also blogged about the film and submitted it to film festivals.

Babysitting Charges

According to the Tax Court, fees paid to a babysitter to enable a parent to get out of the house to do volunteer work for a charity are deductible as charitable contributions.

Landscaping Your Home

A sole proprietor who regularly met with clients in his home office was allowed to deduct part of the cost of landscaping the property.  Based on the fact that it was part of the home being used for business.  The Tax Court also allowed a deduction for part of the costs of lawn care and driveway repairs.

 New Pool

After a doctor told a man with emphysema to develop an exercise regimen, the man put a pool in his home.  He swam twice a day and improved his breathing capacity.  He swam in the pool more than anyone in his family.  The Tax Court allowed him to deduct the cost of the pool as a medical expense, because the main purpose of the pool was for medical care.  The cost of heating the pool, pool chemicals and a portion of insurance for the pool were are also treated as medical expenses. 

Tax Deductions You Won’t Believe Are Real

Tax season is in full swing and people are looking at their return and wondering about deductions they should include.  This month we are going to talk about tax deductions that are bit unusual but have been successfully deducted.   Some are a bit ridiculous and others are down right hilarious.  During such a stressful time, we wanted to provide some funny anecdotes.  

Charitable Donation

A woman used her own money to care for feral cats.  She fostered them in her home for a charity that specialized in neutering wild cats.  She spent more than $12,000 paying vet bills, food and other items.  A Tax Court allowed her to claim the charitable deduction, but limited her write-off because she failed to meet the substantiation rules.  This means she failed to get a contemporaneous acknowledgement from the charity each time she spent over $250 on the charity’s behest.  If she had received acknowledgement from the charity she could have deducted all her costs.

Body Builders and The Oil They Use

            A professional body builder used body oil on his muscles to make them glisten during his competitions. Tax Court ruled he could deduct the cost of the oil because it was a business expense.  They would not allow him to deduct foods and vitamins that he used to enhance strength and muscle development.

Paying for Wrongdoing?

An insurance company sued two doctors for insurance fraud.  The doctors admitted liability and agreed to reimburse the insurer for the losses.  The IRS ruled that the repayments are deductible as long as the doctors originally included the money in their incomes the prior year.  They didn’t get off too easy though.  The IRS said the repaid funds are a miscellaneous itemized deduction that’s allowed only to the extent it exceeds 2% of the doctors adjusted gross incomes.

Wreck a Car While You Are Drunk?

A man who drank too much at a party arranged a ride home.  A few hours later, that same man, after giving the drinking a rest thought he would be okay to drive home.  Unfortunately, his vehicle slid off the road and rolled over.  He was arrested for drunk driving; his blood alcohol was just above the legal limit.  His insurer refused to pay for the damage to the car because of the arrest.  But the Tax Court let him deduct the cost of the damage as a casualty loss. Because he said that he had tried to act reasonably.  Had he driven straight home with a higher blood alcohol content and had the accident, they would have rejected his write-off.

Barking Dogs

A self-employed consultant working in her condo sued her neighbors and the Condo HOA, alleging that her work was disrupted by noise from faulty construction and barking dogs.   She attempted to deduct $26,000 in legal fees as business expenses.  The IRS said the legal fees were a personal cost. But the Tax Court approved half the write-off because she used 50% of the condo for business.  The IRS also failed to prove that the noise didn’t adversely affect her business use.

Tax Deductions You Won’t Believe Are Real

Tax season is in full swing and people are looking at their return and wondering about deductions they should include.  This month we are going to talk about tax deductions that are bit unusual but have been successfully deducted.   Some are a bit ridiculous and others are down right hilarious.  During such a stressful time, we wanted to provide some funny anecdotes.  

Drug Lab Burns Down

            A man bought a building that was previously used by a religious sect.  He decided to use the building as a drug lab.  Unfortunately a hot plate ignited his chemicals and a fire burned down the building.  Although the building (which was probably used for cooking meth,) had been used for an illegal activity, he claimed he was entitled to a $9,000 casualty loss.  Even though he acted negligently and was using the building for an illegal drug lab, the Tax Court allowed him to take the write off.

Supporting Your Child’s Career

            A father owned a successful real estate development company and his son was a motocross racer and a local celebrity.  The father decided to sponsor his son’s racing activity and over the course of 2 years his business spent $160,000 in equipment and other costs.  Tax Court allowed the father to deduct almost the entire amount as a business expense.  Since the firm acquired new business, new connections and favorable deals the sponsorship was tax deductible.

Music Professor Plays the Bass

            An accomplished musician and music professor attempted to deduct his travel expenses for jazz rehearsals and performances.  His reasoning was that he needed to keep his skills sharp for performances with other well-known musicians.  The IRS said he could not deduct these costs since performing wasn’t part of his teaching duties.  But a Tax Court allowed the deductions because he used what he learned in the music scene to teach his students.

Lets Buy a Plane

            A couple owned a rental condo about 6 hours away from their home, but instead of driving or taking the only commercial flight available to visit the condo, they bought their own plane.  The Tax Court allowed them to deduct their condo-related trips – including cost of fuel and depreciation for the time the plane was used for business related purposes.

Cat Food

            A couple who owned a junkyard were allowed to write off the cost of cat food.  They would set the food out to attract wild cats.  They needed the cats to get rid of snakes and rats in the junkyard, which made it safer for customers.  Tax Court conceded that the cost of food was deductible.

TIPS FOR HIRING A TAX PREPARER

If you are looking for a professional to help you prepare your taxes, let us give you some suggestions on what to look for. There are hundreds of tax preparers out there, some make grandiose promises of large tax returns and others do not follow the rules set by the IRS. These mistakes could potentially make filing your taxes incredibly difficult and expensive. Let us help you avoid problems.

Hornstein Financial focuses on tax preparation, but we wanted to give you some tips on finding and hiring a tax professional.

It is important to check out tax preparers carefully before hiring one. Do not fall for promises of huge refunds. It really becomes a ‘consumer, beware’ world.

In dealing with tax preparers, here are three tips you should consider:

1. Get a copy of your return. If the preparer then alters the return after you’ve signed off on it, that’s proof that it was a false return that was filed.

2. Make sure the preparer’s name, registration number and address are on the return.

3. Check with the Better Business Bureau or state consumer affairs agency to see if there are any complaints against the preparation firm or preparer.

It may seem like a lot of work at first. But if you get sucked into one of these preparer issues it can take over a year to get it resolved. Also, once you find someone you trust you can use their services every year without worry.

Let Hornstein Financial help. Give our office a call with any questions or concerns 818.887.9401

Your Rights as a Tax Payer Part II

We are still reviewing the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.  Our last newsletter covered your first 5 rights under the IRS Bill of Rights. Now we are finishing with the last 5.

  • The Right to Finality

Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge the IRS’s position as well as the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS has finished an audit.

  • The Right to Privacy

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination, or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary, and will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections and will prove its case in a due process hearing.

  • The Right to Confidentiality

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any information they provide to the IRS will not be disclosed unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers have the right to expect appropriate action will be taken against employees, return preparers and others who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer return information.

  • The Right to Retain Representation

Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they cannot afford representation.

  • The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System

Taxpayers have the right to expect the tax system to consider facts and circumstances that might affect their underlying liabilities, ability to pay or ability to provide information in a timely manner. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayers Advocate Service if they are experiencing financial difficulty or if the IRS has not resolved their tax issues properly and in a timely manner through its normal channels.

The IRS provides the following sources for forms, publications and additional information.  You can also contact Hornstein Financial and speak to Steve Hornstein or Samara Lewinson about your tax questions. 

Your Rights as a Tax Payer Part I

Did you know that as a taxpayer you have a Bill of Rights?  That’s correct.  There is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights.  Now that Tax season has begun here at Hornstein Financial we will be covering this topic in our newsletter.   

The IRS Mission is to provide America’s taxpayers with top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all. 

  • The Right to Be Informed

Taxpayers have a right to know what they need to do in order to comply with the tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures in all tax forms, instructions, publications, notices and correspondence. They have the right to be informed of IRS decisions about their tax accounts and to receive clear explanations of the outcomes.

  • The Right to Quality Service

Taxpayers have a right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS.  To be spoken to in a way they can easily understand, to receive clear and easily understandable communications from the IRS, and to speak to a supervisor about inadequate service.

  • The Right to Pay No More Than the Correct Amount of Tax

Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due, including interest and penalties, and to have the IRS apply all tax payments properly.

  • The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard

Taxpayers have the right to raise objections and provide additional documentation in response to formal IRS actions or proposed actions, to expect that the IRS will consider their timely objections and documentation promptly and fairly, and to receive a response if the IRS does not agree with their position.

  • The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum

Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including many penalties, and have the right to receive a written response regarding the Office of Appeals’ decision. Taxpayers generally have the right to take their cases to court.

The IRS provides the following sources for forms, publications and additional information.  You can also contact Hornstein Financial and speak to Steve Hornstein or Samara Lewinson about your tax questions. 

When Key Tax Documents Will Arrive

January

Employers must provide employees with a W-2 by Jan. 31.

Businesses that hire independent contractors will have to give them their 1099-MISC by that date.

Retirees should also pay attention to their mailboxes in January. That’s when the Social Security Administration sends beneficiaries an SSA-1099, which will detail what they received during the previous year.

If you blink, you may miss your 1099-R, a document filers get when they’ve taken a distribution from a retirement plan or from an IRA. Expect your brokerage firm to send this out to you by the end of January.

February and March

You may have heard about the triple tax benefits of a health savings account: You can make tax-deductible or pretax contributions to it. Also, your money will grow free of taxes and you can use the cash tax-free for qualified medical expenses.

Further, if you had health insurance coverage last year, whether you bought it through a state or federal marketplace or you had it at work, you’ll get a Form 1095-A, -B or -C by early March.

Mid-February – Owners of taxable investment accounts should be on the lookout around for a slew of 1099s from their brokerage firms.

These forms report dividends and interest of more than $10, as well as capital gains and stock sales.

If you own a home, watch out for Form 1098, which you’ll need to deduct mortgage interest.

You can also deduct tuition and education costs and student loan interest.

Chase these forms down

Investors in partnerships, and recipients of a trust or estate, may have to sit tight all spring while waiting for their Schedule K-1, which reports income, losses and dividends.

These individuals may have to estimate their income and taxes, and then request an extension with the IRS.

Shareholders in S-Corps who need a K-1 to file their taxes can’t get this document until the corporation has completed its return.

You may need to do a little legwork to get other forms. For instance, you’ll need to ask your child care provider for additional documents if you’d like to claim the child and dependent care credit.

Always talk to your tax professional if you are confused or have questions.  Call our office to make an appointment or speak to someone today 818.887.9401.

How Prop 19 Will Impact Estate Planning

In November California voted on Proposition 19.  It may have been a bit confusing but we wanted to address how it impacts Estate Planning.

Proposition 19 ends or significantly limits the exclusion from property tax reassessment for transfers between a parent and a child in three material ways.

  1.  The exemption from reassessment for up to $1 million of assessed value of property other than a principal residence is gone.
  2. The transfer of a personal residence from a parent to a child will result in reassessment of the property unless the child occupies the property as the child’s own principal residence within 12 months of the transfer date.
  3. The child must file a Homeowners Exemption in order prove they are residing in the home.
  4. Even if the child occupies the property, the property tax reassessment exclusion is limited. If the property’s fair market value at the time of transfer is less than $1 million greater than its assessed value, the property will retain its original assessed value. If the property is worth more than $1 million over the assessed value, only $1 million is excluded from property tax reassessment.

For example, under Proposition 19, if a property passes from a parent to a child with an assessed value of $500,000 and a fair market value of $2,000,000, then the new reassessed value for the child will be $1,000,000 which would raise the property tax from roughly $3,500 to $10,000 based on county averages.

The new limited parent-child exclusion rules from property tax reassessment under Proposition 19 becomes effective on February 16, 2021. If you are contemplating a transfer of your real estate to the next generation, the time to plan is now. Do not wait. If you transfer real estate prior to February 16, 2021, you can lock-in the current parent-child exclusions from property tax reassessment. That said, there are a number of things to consider before making such transfers.  Most importantly, the loss of a stepped-up cost basis at death for income tax purposes will occur if you transfer the real estate without retaining certain “strings” to cause the property to be included in your estate for estate tax purposes.

Current law provides generous exclusions from property tax reassessment for transfer of a personal residence and other real estate between a parent and a child under current California law, certain transfers of real estate between a parent and a child are not subject to property tax reassessment; namely, during lifetime or at death, a parent may (i) transfer a personal residence of unlimited value to a child without property tax reassessment, and (ii) transfer an additional $1 million of assessed value of other real estate to a child without property tax reassessment. Since the assessed value of real estate – the value shown on the property tax bill – is often significantly less than the fair market value, this exemption from reassessment is a powerful tool for parents to pass personal residences and other real estate with low assessed values to their children with no property tax reassessment.

We understand this is extremely confusing and there are many rules and restrictions.  Our current law is changing drastically.  New information comes to light almost daily.  Please give our office a call 818.887.9401

More Celebrity Estate Plans

Leaving a Child Out of Your Estate Plan? David Cassidy Did it.

In the fall of 2017 we lost some familiar faces.  David Cassidy passed away.  After he passed there was a lot of coverage regarding his estate.  It made headlines due to the fact that he left out one of his children.  David Cassidy had two children, a son Beau Cassidy and a daughter Katie Cassidy.

Katie Cassidy was his biological daughter, but he left her out of his will.  This was interesting from an estate planning perspective.

Many times we talk to couples that are working on their estate plan and they want to leave a child out.  Let’s be honest, there are some families who want to disinherit a particular family member.  There are many reasons for this.  We are going to look at one reason.  One reason is not malice but because one child is much more successful or financially better off then another. 

There are viable options for executing these wishes.  Many people do it.  We like to give the example of George Clooney.

George Clooney’s parents may leave him out of their will or the distribution of their trust, because well, he’s George Clooney.  Clooney is an Oscar winner and probably very financially well off.   George Clooney doesn’t need to inherit his parent’s home or their bank accounts.  Mr. and Mrs. Clooney would not include him in their estate plans, but that would mean they leave everything to George’s siblings.  Let’s says he has a sister.  She may need more financial support, so it stands to reason that inheriting her parent’s estate makes more sense then sharing it between herself and her brother George.

This sort of situation could easily be the case with Mr. Cassidy.  He had two children and he left everything to his son.  If you do a quick search of his daughter Katie, she is an actress, has appeared in movies and popular TV shows, and will probably continue to have a long and healthy career.  She is the “George Clooney” in this situation. 

Her brother, on the other hand, doesn’t have the financial stability she may have.  This could be why Mr. Cassidy, not without love and affection, left her out. 

There are many reasons families leave a child out of their will.  If you are interested in discussing these options or changing your Will or Trust to omit a child, please give our office a call.  818.887.9401.

Celebrity Estate Plans

Hugh Hefner’s Trust Requires his Beneficiaries to Stay Sober.

Hugh Hefner passed away in September 2017, he was 91.  It recently came to light that in his Trust he requires beneficiaries to stay away from any unprescribed drugs.  They also must not become dependent on alcohol. 

We all remember Hugh Hefner as the founder of Playboy Inc.  His magazines are famous, but did you know he was also a big supporter of the civil rights movements. He has quite a legacy.  He leaves behind an empire to his 31-year old widow Crystal Harris and four children between the ages of 65 and 26. Some of those children even work for the company he founded.

Hefner has a clause in his Trust that requires his loved ones to stay sober or risk loosing out on the money he left for them.  He did provide a chance to get back on good terms.  If a beneficiary stays sober for one full year they have the opportunity to reclaim their portion of the family’s fortune. But it does allow for the Trustee to drug test beneficiaries at any time if they believe they are violating the agreement. 

Putting in these sorts of clauses was actually quite common in the 1980s during the drug epidemic that Reagan fought as president.  It died off a little as time wore on.  It looks like Mr. Hefner knows what happens at his infamous Playboy parties and wants to make sure his beneficiaries are staying clean.

If you think you need this in your trust, it is easy to include.  Make sure your estate plan fits your desires and protects your family the way you want to.  Give our office a call if you need to up date your plans or need to get a start on your estate plans 818. 887.9401.