Last Minute Tax Tips: Is My Cat Deductible?

With April 15 Looming, CPAs Field Crazy Questions


April 12, 2005 — If the Internal Revenue Service reflected real American values, gym membership would be a legitimate medical expense, clothing could be depreciated as it goes out of style and your cat could be listed as a dependent.

With April 15 looming, I'm reminded of one of Homer Simpson's legendary meltdowns:

"OK, I need some deductions," he says, addressing his wife and children. "Marge, if anyone asks, you require 24-hour nursing care, Lisa's a clergyman, Maggie is seven people and Bart was wounded in Vietnam."

If you're rushing to file your tax returns and you've got some strange questions for your accountant, don't be afraid. I asked a few professionals about the most unusual deductions they've been asked about. Maybe this list can shed some light — and save you some money.

I hasten to add that I haven't mailed in my tax returns yet, and the deductions listed here — though offered by prominent certified public accountants — shouldn't take the place of consulting a professional tax preparer.

In other words: If you get called before the IRS, don't drag me along.

Strange Tax Deductions

1. You can deduct baby oil, if you're strong enough. Even if you're on your feet all day, the baby oil you rub on your swollen tootsies at the end of the day can't be deducted as a business expense. However, if you're a professional bodybuilder — and you grease up your body for big shows — you've got a legitimate write-off.

"Looks count in a lot of jobs. But generally, your work clothes and dry cleaning bills aren't an allowable business expense," says John Q. Rodgers, a tax lawyer and CPA in Hermosa Beach, Calif. "It's a little different, however, when you are an entertainer. If your body needs to glisten to be in a show, that's part of your expense of doing business."

Rodgers says he's advised dancers to deduct body-waxing and other procedures considered to be a professional necessity.