In an effort to save on their taxes, some crafty business owners can and will attempt to write off anything and everything that could even faintly be considered a business expense. Tax officials typically don’t consider these write-offs eligible—or even legal, in most cases—but that did not stop these people from trying.
The items on this list can’t be used by everybody, though. These are very specific cases. Everyone can and should speak with their tax advisor to see what specific things you can and cannot deduct from your taxes and expenses so that you don’t get caught in hot water! So with that in mind, here are ten strange tax deductions and write-offs that some people can and have claimed.
10 Baby Oil
Baby oil is for babies, right? It’s used to moisturize their diaper area to prevent rashes and the like. Did you know bodybuilders love it too? When they show off their years of work at bodybuilding shows, that isn’t just sweat that makes them appear wet and shiny. They use baby oil to make their muscles glisten under the stage lights.
For some bodybuilders, the prize earnings at these shows are their primary source of income, and one key part of their success is the oil they use. Because of this, some bodybuilders have gotten away with writing off their bulk purchases of baby oil as a business expense! By extension, they were also able to write off gym memberships, exercise equipment, and protein supplements.
9 Regular Meals
You may have heard of offices regularly taking business lunches, then writing off those meals as a business expense. After all, “work” still gets “done” while the participants eat. Sharing a meal is a great way to build good relationships with clients and partners.
But one woman, a real estate broker, tried to claim a tax deduction on regular meals that she went out to eat alone at restaurants. She reasoned that while she went out on her lunch break, she still had her nametag on, so strangers (or potential clients) could come up to her and ask questions about her work while she ate. This didn’t work, as her tax advisor had some simple advice for her—take off the nametag!
8 Home Office Spaces
Everyone would prefer to work from home—you’re closer to family and the comforts of home, and you save a ton of time, money, and gas by cutting a commute out of your daily life. However, there’s a way to save even more money.
If you’re so committed to working from home that you’ve made a personal working space, whether that’s your garage or office, you can write off the maintenance of that space! For example, let’s say that your office makes up ten percent of your home. That means you can claim that ten percent of your utilities—gas, heating, air conditioning, electricity, internet, and even landscaping—counts as a business expense! That doesn’t sound like a bad idea!
7 Pet Food & Supplies
Many of us love animals so much that we bring them into our homes, and some even call their pets their “furry little children.” Depending on the circumstances, they can also be little tax deductions! From a pest-killing cat to a sheepdog, if your pet serves a purpose for your business, they and the supplies needed to care for them count as business expenses. And these roles can be just about anything—mascot, guard dog, emotional support pig—there are plenty of options to discuss with your tax advisor.
This tax loophole applies in another way. If you find a job that requires you to move to a new home, you can write off your pets and their supplies as a business expense. The reasoning here is that the move may be unexpected, and it can be a pain to move your vital business associates (your animals) to a new home, especially if it takes time for them to adjust to their new surroundings.
A motorcycle seems like a total luxury vehicle, right? They’re fast, loud, and made to show off. They can also be very expensive with all the delicate tuning and maintenance needed to care for them. And though insurance for motorcycles is generally cheaper, you’re still taking a risk every time you get on your bike.
However, if it’s your main mode of transportation (or makes up more than fifty percent of your daily commute), you can write it off as a travel business expense. So, sure! Go ahead and show off that hog to your boss and coworkers—just be sure to wear a helmet!
5 Breast Implants
After reading about bodybuilders with baby oil and business owners with guard dogs, some of you out there with less common jobs may be reading this article and wondering, “What can I write off that’s specific to my line of work?”
Well, here’s another story that might inspire an idea—an exotic dancer named Chesty Love managed to get a tax deduction from her multiple breast augmentation surgeries! In a total power move, she represented herself in court and argued that her breast implants should be a business expense because she found that the larger her chest got, the more customers she drew in!
4 Swimming Pool
There’s no way someone got a break for this one, right? A below-ground swimming pool is a luxury—as much as everyone would like to have one in their backyard, no one desperately needs a swimming pool! Right?
Actually, if you can convince the IRS that your swimming pool is a medical necessity, the pool and the expenses for maintaining it can be deducted as a medical expense. Some conditions, like osteoarthritis, require submersion for treatment, and a swimming pool or hot tub is perfect for that. Plus, it’s a nice cherry on top if you also want to host parties for your family or neighborhood.
3 Hiring Children as Employees
Ah, nepotism—a specific kind of privilege that’s irritating for many. These days, the only thing that qualifies a person for a high-end job or access to prestigious schooling is a blood relation to someone’s rich mom or dad.
Say what you want about it, but the American business world actively encourages nepotism—even for smaller businesses. If you hire your kid and they make less than a certain amount, they don’t have to worry about taxes taken off their payroll, nor are they required to file taxes! This is a huge benefit for young people and the parents that hire them. Not only do they make a good amount of tax-free money (that’s probably way better than the typical allowance), the experience gives them a head start on the rest of their lives.
For the parent that hires them, who’s better to hire than a person you know better than themselves? There’s already a lot of trust and expectation established by their familial relationship—a parent knows their child’s limits, strengths, and how well their personality would mesh with customers—which should make for a great employee. Maybe, if it’s done right, nepotism isn’t all bad.
Appearances are important, and we should care about our grooming habits, as it expresses to others that we have respect for ourselves and societal norms. But like anything in life, maintaining our appearance costs money, and money means taxes—we all get haircuts, and we all pay taxes on them—except for some.
This is another one of those really specific write-offs with which only a certain privileged few can get away—and who’s more privileged than former president Donald J. Trump? When his finances were investigated during his term, they found that he managed to write off a whopping $70,000 dollars… just for maintaining his ridiculous hair. And it wasn’t just for haircuts—we’re talking tax-free gels, sprays, dyes, and anti-balding treatments.
How did he get away with it? Because they were expenses for his number one money maker: his public appearance.
1 Criminal Activity
This one isn’t so much an item as a bizarre truth for criminals. Any amount of money earned through criminal activity is taxable. That’s pretty unexpected—bank robbers are expected to pay taxes on the money they stole!
Crazier still, if the money earned through criminal activity is taxed, it is also, therefore, tax deductible! The same rules apply to business expenses even if a business is illegitimate. This means that anything that a criminal (legally) purchases to promote or benefit their (illegal) business is granted as a deduction.
For example, a drug dealer can technically write off the guns and ammunition they buy to guard their product as a business expense! But make no mistake, the money that criminals could save if they tried this would pale in comparison to bail or punitive fees if they’re caught and convicted. Plus, one could imagine it would be very difficult to be a tax-paying criminal for an extended period, as keeping a record of one’s taxes and expenditures is the very definition of a paper trail.
Never forget that Al Capone, world-famous American mobster, was finally convicted of tax evasion.