Ten days until the dreaded deadline for filing your federal income tax returns. Maybe many of you have already filed. Bravo to you. But for those of you who have not yet filed and are mulling over every possible deduction you can claim, let this DBD be a lesson for you.
This is Anietra Hamper, who until recently worked as a TV news anchor in Columbus, Ohio. Anietra has been a regular on the local airwaves in Central Ohio for last several years, working for the NBC affiliate until 2008 and then the CBS affiliate until the end of last year. She recently received some bad news from the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court. Some of her "business expenses" as a TV news anchor were, to her surprise, not tax deductible.
A former Central Ohio news anchor is learning the hard way that cotton thongs are not tax deductible.
Anietra Hamper landed in court after claiming a variety of beauty-related expenses on her tax return, including manicures, teeth whitening, gym fees, sportswear, bedding, cotton bikini underwear and thongs she insisted were necessary to do her job.
The 38-year-old spent quite a lot of cash on her appearance too, according to the lawsuit. She applied for a whopping $167,356 in expenses between 2005 and 2008.
"Petitioner's clothing purchases for work consisted of such items as traditional business suits, lounge wear, a robe, sportswear, active wear, lingerie, cotton bikini and cotton thong underwear and evening wear. She also deducted expenses for an Ohio State jersey, jewelry, bedding, running and walking shoes and dry cleaning costs," the suit alleged.
The IRS came after Anietra for back taxes and penalties on these deductions. Recently, the U.S. Tax Court ruled against Anietra and ordered her to pay $16,492 in back taxes, plus a penalty of $3,298. An article about the case in Sunday's Columbus Dispatch explained why Anietra lost--
Write off that red suit!
The IRS would not comment on Hamper’s situation but referred to IRS Publication 529. It says a taxpayer can deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes if "you must wear them as a condition of your employment" and if "the clothes are not suitable for everyday wear."
It lists firefighters, professional athletes and delivery workers as examples of workers who might be able to deduct clothing as a business expense. Musicians and entertainers, it says, "can deduct the cost of theatrical clothing and accessories that are not suitable for everyday wear."
Hamper thought her deductions were legitimate, so she took the case to U.S. Tax Court, where she explained the deductions to a judge last fall. The judge ruled against her in late February and ordered her to pay $16,492 in back taxes, plus a penalty of $3,298.
"The general rule is that, where business clothes are suitable for general wear, a deduction for them is not allowable," the judge wrote. Most professionals, the decision said, "typically do not wear their business clothes for private or personal wear," yet they cannot deduct the cost of those clothes.
The judge also ruled that most other items Hamper used as deductions were personal, not business, expenses. They included contact lenses that helped her read the teleprompter, makeup, haircuts, manicures, teeth whitening and subscriptions to magazines and newspapers.
For her part, Anietra expressed no regrets for either the deductions or for challenging the IRS in Tax Court. In the Dispatch article she was quoted as saying, "I would hate for anyone else to go through this" and decided to share her story "as a tale of caution during tax season."
Nice outfit and accessories for fishing. I wonder if she got a write-off for those?
So consider yourselves warned, denizens of the DBD. We are nothing on this DBD if not informative about such important matters as your taxes. Think twice before you write off that thong as a business expense. Yeah, I'm talking to you, TwistNHook.
So fess up, guys and gals: what's the most creative deduction you have ever claimed on your taxes? Don't worry. We won't tell the IRS.