Magazine article Medical Economics

Breast Implants as a Deductible Business Expense?

Magazine article Medical Economics

Breast Implants as a Deductible Business Expense?

Article excerpt

Nothing could be drier than tax laws, so it's a safe bet that the people who draft them aren't moonlighting as writers for Seinfeld. But some tax rules beat Jerry's best punch lines by a mile. Things get even more absurd when ordinary citizens--from beggars to concert musicians--challenge the ocean of sections, subsections, paragraphs, and subparagraphs of the tax code.

So take a break from grappling with your tax return and check some of the surreal tax items we've found.

The man who begged to pay taxes. Panhandlers can be filers, thanks to a lawsuit brought by a beggar who wanted to preserve his federal disability benefits. To do that, he had to convince a court that the $250 or so a month he filled his hat with should be considered earned income, which is taxable (Imagine pleading with the Feds to let you pay taxes]) A U.S. District Court said the beggar's daily street-corner gig fell smack dab within a U.S. Supreme Court definition of a trade or business: an activity the taxpayer engages in with continuity and regularity ... for income or profit. It ordered the Secretary of Health and Human Services to pass the panhandler's disability benefits--and his legal fees.

Here's when the O.J, rule applies. You won't pay tax on a can of fruit juice you buy in a Texas supermarket, but you will if you get it from a vending machine or pushcart. You'll also pay tax on carbonated beverages and diluted juices--unless you buy them from someone under 18 years old who's helping to raise money for a non-profit organization.

Waiter, is that an oil slick on my soup? Want to have dinner on an oil platform but wonder whether you can write off the cost? Relax and start munching. The IRS says you can deduct everything from appetizer to dessert. This is assuming, of course, that you're in a U.S. territory north of the 54th parallel. South of that, you're out of luck.

But are their broomsticks deductible? A coven in Rode Island qualifies as a exempt organization. The state's division of taxation found that the witches meet regularly, adhere to traditions, and follow a formal liturgy. That makes the church of Wicca similar to other recognized religions, the state said, adding that the church has a "broad concern for improving the quality of life for others."

The Tax Court says Yes to big breasts. Exotic dancer Chesty Love, as she's known on the club circuit, took a $2,088 depreciation deduction for her breast implants in 1988. After the IRS disallowed the deduction, Chesty convinced a federal Tax Court that the implants were a legitimate business expense. Her argument: She needed larger breasts to boost her wages.

This write-off hit the right note. The cost of a 17th-century Ruggeri bass viol could be depreciated, the Tax Court said, because the musician owner didn't display it as a work of art, as a collector would. Instead, he played it in concerts and rehearsals, so it related directly to his employment. …

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