It used to be that when the IRS discovered you’ve been claiming a child who is actually a 50-pound Labrador retriever named “Billy,” everyone would have a good laugh. Not any more. The Treasury Department says it will be cracking down on “aggressive tax deductions” filed by U.S. taxpayers in order to keep the federal government from being bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars — money that could otherwise be spent on important federal programs, such as the Government Shutdown Caribbean Getaway Fund.
As a service to our readers, several of whom are actual U.S. taxpayers, we thought we’d contact some of the brightest minds in tax law in order to clarify what we can still get away with. Unfortunately, everyone was too busy working on the Osbourne family’s latest tax returns to help us so, as responsible members of the news media, we were left with only one option:
Forget taxes and talk about The Bachelor!
Just kidding. We rolled up our sleeves. Got on the Internet. Made phone calls. And eventually came up with some real-life tax claims you should NOT make unless you want to end up in jail, or worse, on the computer screen of a humor columnist trying to meet a deadline.
Our first example comes from Raleigh, N.C., where a man with an unsuccessful furniture-store business did what any enterprising owner would do: hire an arsonist to burn it down.
After determining the fire was indeed the result of a three-piece sectional explosion which then spread to a spare gas can kept near the curtains display, the insurance company paid the man $500,000. He then dutifully reported the amount on his tax return, which also included deductions for the loss of the building, its contents, as well as a “consulting fee” of $10,000 paid to the arsonist. It’s unclear whether the man actually used the term “arson consultant” on his return. The point is, if you’re going to burn down your business for the insurance money, don’t be stupid:
Do it in North Carolina.
Our next example involves an ostrich farmer from Louisiana, where apparently, without our knowledge, the state motto has been changed to:
We raise ostriches that could step on your state bird.
In this case, the farmer filed a claim for the depreciation of his ostrich which, as it turns out, it’s perfectly legal! In fact, you can claim the depreciation of any animal used for breeding.
However, it doesn’t mean that if “Buster” gets out and fraternizes with the neighbor’s cocker spaniel that you can claim him as a deduction.
Even if “Buster” happens to be an ostrich.
So what does all this mean to you and me, the average U.S. taxpayers? It means that if we want to claim ourselves as a tax deduction, we need to begin breeding immediately.
No. What it really means is that with tax day upon us, you only have a few weeks left to get “Billy” a social security card if you want to claim him on your taxes. And if you begin to suspect that the IRS is catching on, do what one Wyoming CPA told his client to do, and simply mark “Billy” as “deceased” on your next tax return. If they want to know what happened, just tell them the details are still sketchy.
All you know is that it involved a freak sofa explosion somewhere in North Carolina.
(You can write to Ned Hickson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)