Friday, March 27, 2009

Dogs as dependents - and other tax no-nos

A free tax tip from Patsy Schober of H&R Block in Charlotte: No matter how much your dog is a part of the family, expenses and all, you may not declare Butch or Snowball as a deduction.

"As long as pets don't have a Social Security number, you can't count them as dependents," she says.

You know, in case you were wondering.

With the recession a strain on so many bottom lines, Schober says her clients are showing a heightened urgency to save this year, amplifying the already creative approach to taxation that some have.

"People demand that they be allowed to deduct their exercise club dues as medical expenses - and golf clubs, too," Schober says. "They want to deduct the clothes that they wear to the office. Um, no."

Schober's favorite this tax season comes from a colleague, who says a client wants to deduct his currently unfunded IRA account, then hope his tax refund arrives before April 15 so he can use the money to fund the IRA he's deducting.

"It's legal," Schober says. But dangerous.

(Some other wacky tax deductions, courtesy of, including our favorite: A home-office deduction for toilet paper.)

Schober says the urgency she sees this year is different - and serious. "People are just begging me, 'Can you find anything?' " she says.

For clients and non-clients, she recommends legal, but less dangerous, paths to tax savings - including an $8,000 tax credit for people who bought their first home in 2009. She notes, too, that the IRS has increased the deductible mileage rate for business, medical and employee expenses.

And for those desperate enough to convince themselves they can sneak one past the tax man?

"Don't do it," Schober says. "The IRS, their budget to expand audits was granted, and their software is getting more sophisticated.

And also: "I can't imagine there's anything worth not sleeping at night because you've committed fraud."

Your Morning Edge:'s Keep America Working Tour will be stopping in Charlotte today for a 10 a.m. job fair at Ballantyne Resort. Representatives from 18 companies are scheduled to attend.


Anonymous said...

No reason to lie about deductions. Just use Turbo Tax, make a $20,000 mistake, then say you are sorry in 5 years. Isn't that what our Sect of the Treasury did? The IRS will understand.

Anonymous said...

Anon - not sure I would try that either, ALTHOUGH - since most of Obama's staff haven't paid up their taxes, and this is the land of equality - then let's all neglect to pay and demand our equal rights!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry with taxes. America is over. Done. By the time you're really forced to pay up, this country will have bankrupted itself and the new global powers will have asserted their authority. China, et al., are just biding their time and watching our demise. Waiting in the wings. They all plan to see us bankrupt ourselves, just like other superpowers have done in the past. While your at it, I'd recommend purchasing a copy of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." Read it, then go out and buy some firearms and ammunition, and begin your contingency planning. It's coming. Step away from "American Idol" for a few minutes and begin prepparing yourself. The world is an ugly place.