Obedience Collars, Frozen Pizzas, and Spy Gear: A Tour of Creative Tax Write-Offs

It's less than a week to Tax Day, but we're not judging you for putting off that filing until the last minute. In fact, it's quite the opposite--we're here to help you gather your last-minute deductions. 


This article is from the archive of our partner .

It's less than a week to tax day, but we're not judging you for putting off that filing until the last minute. In fact, it's quite the opposite--we're here to help you gather your last-minute deductions. Sure, you've probably deducted the same types of things year in and year out (computer here, meals there). But what is everyone else doing? We took a look at five professions and their respective deductions to give you that last-minute jolt of creativity you may need when filing your own. And for good measure, we talked to TurboTax Vice President Bob Meighan to find out what's legal, what isn't, and what specific things you should be thinking about in the next week or so.

The Profession: Porn Star

What the Accountant Says:

"What you have to remember is that you can deduct items that are ordinary and necessary to your business," said Meighan. "Those are generally the guidelines--anything that's required and unique to the business can be deducted."

  • Which means ...

Porn stars have a different sense of ordinary. "Unlike you and I, they can write off body lotions and oils ... this can also mean things like sex paraphernalia, tools, batteries ... you get the picture."

  • But what about ...

"Costumes--maybe it's the maid's outfit, or cheerleading outfit--you could justify those items as expensive and deductible," says Meighan. "You could also easily argue that a gym membership could enhance their value and enhance their business, and could therefore be written off."

  • They can write off unsexy things, too
Meighan explained that porn stars could write off STD and drug testing. "They could probably argue that birth control could be a business expense. Even condoms--anything along those lines--deductible," he says.
What Actual Porn Stars Said:

"My tattoos, my clothing are all basically an investment into my persona that my company makes money off of, and there are so many different costs that go into making movies that we wrote off. Once we shot a movie where a character played the owner of a frozen pizza distribution company (don't ask--I think of really odd plots). I looked into prop houses and saw it was cheaper to just go to Smart and Final and buy a whole bunch of frozen pizza and then put stickers on the logos. So, I wrote off 117 boxes of frozen pizza.... as 'set design."—Joanna Angel, pictured above, of Burning Angel (NSFW)

Another star told us his studio had covered everything except tanning, and another mentioned that some actors write off waxing.

A studio executive who wished to remain anonymous had this piece of counter-advice: "Maybe you're right [with whatever you're writing off], but do you want to go to the IRS every year and prove your writeoffs?  Nope. It's not worth the problem."

The Takeaway: "Ordinary" and "necessary" are totally relative.

The Profession: Journalist

What the Accountant Says:

  • Ask News Corp. 

"A lot of expenses required to conduct surveillance--with high-tech or paparazzi photographers--those would be expensive, and you could write them off," said Meighan, referencing News Corp's hacking scandal. "You could also write off undercover operations/investigative expenses, assistants for research—as long as it's in pursuit of a story you want to write."

  • Stuff Journalists Use But Probably Can't Afford

"Camera, computer, laptop, cellphones--things like these that can be used for business and are used for business can be written off," Meighan said. "Always think of the environment that you're working in. Push the envelope--with an iPad, in most cases it's fair and legitimate."

  • Clothes

"Let's say you're doing an assignment in the arctic weather, and the clothing you purchased is going to be used solely for that purpose--you can deduct that," Meighan said. "News anchors would probably deduct their suits--but that's borderline. The IRS would probably try and argue that you could use the clothing in other events."

What Actual Journalists Said: 

"I wrote off my Marantz audio kit, my Canon PowerShot, and a few other things. Did my taxes this past weekend and it was quite painless. Hopefully I didn't screw up!" said Nathan Frandino, a journalist at The Santiago Times.

"[My] Vogue subscription," said one journo who works at a New York real estate magazine.

The Takeaway: There's probably more than one way to write off an iPad.

The Profession: Congressperson

What the Accountant Says:

  • They probably don't need his help: "Since they have very few out of pocket expenses. I would find it surprising if any of their expenses are deductible. They're given per diem funds for just about anything they imagine." said Meighan. Really? "These guys basically have a free walk."

The Takeaway: It's always better when someone else pays.

The Profession: Dog Walker

What the Accountant Says:

  • One more reason not to have a landline

"They'll have no problem justifying things like cell phones since they're out and about and not tied to a landline," says Meighan.  He told us that in some professions, deducting a portion of your cell phone bill is acceptable if you're using it while on the job.

  • And specifically ...

"Insurance specific to that business they can deduct. Leashes, obedience collars, harnesses, water bowls, food bowls, treats, kennels, you get the picture," said Meighan, who added that marketing, advertising and special clothing (hiking boots, etc.) could also be deducted."

What Actual Dog Walkers said:

A couple of dog walkers (who wished to remain off the record because they want to stay as far off the radar of the IRS as possible) admitted to writing off cell phone bills. One also mentioned office equipment, printers, and fax machines.

The Takeaway: You didn't really need that home office, did you?

The Accountant: 

What the Accountant Says:

"Everything they do is mainstream. Equipment, software, calculators, office space, all of that stuff is clearly deductible. It doesn't really fall outside of what's deductible," said Meighan.

What an Actual Accountant Who Isn't Meighan Said:

We talked to two CPAs--one from New York and one from Los Angeles--who confirmed Meighan's sad tale about not being able to deduct anything fun.

The Takeaway: Give your accountant something to laugh about?

Images via Shutterstock by RealinemediaBurningangel.comSVluma; PicsfiveRobert Kneschke

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.