No, You Can't Deduct That

Apr 9, 2012
Originally published on April 9, 2012 12:38 pm

For our NYT Magazine column this weekend, we talked to 20 accountants, tax lawyers and policy wonks. Among other things, we asked them to list some ridiculous deductions their clients have tried to take.

Here are a few of our favorite answers, broken into two groups: relatively common, somewhat ridiculous; and less common, more ridiculous. Nothing on the list is tax deductible.

Relatively Common, Somewhat Ridiculous

Gym memberships and country-club dues

"You cannot deduct dues (including initiation fees) for membership in any club organized for: business, pleasure, recreation, or other social purpose."

Cosmetic surgery

i.e. "any procedure that is directed at improving the patient's appearance and does not meaningfully promote the proper function of the body or prevent or treat illness or disease."


From a 2008 tax court ruling: "Grooming remains an inherently personal expense and is not deductible, regardless of whether an employer requires a particularly neat appearance."

Less Common, More Ridiculous

Thong underwear

The buyer was an actress; she needed to avoid visible underwear lines on TV.

A wedding

Clients were invited! Other failed deductions based on the same rationale: a trip to the desert to ride four-wheelers, and a ski trip to Switzerland.

Vet bills

Bonus: The pets were listed as dependents.

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