NEW YORK (MainStreet) — As a veteran tax professional, and tax blogger, I am often asked by clients, readers and cocktail party guests “can I deduct X, Y or Z?” My answer to the question is always “it depends.”
Actually the answer to almost every tax question, except for “should I cheat?” is “it depends.”
Whether or not you can deduct something depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your situation.
Can I deduct my cat or dog? The obvious answer is no. But what about the owner of the cat who plays Morris in the TV commercials or the dog who played “Eddie” on the sitcom “Fraiser”? These animals are what generates the income of their owners.
You can deduct as a medical expense the costs of guide dogs or other animals aiding the disabled.
You can deduct as a charitable donation the costs of raising puppies that will become seeing-eye dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind or a similar non-profit organization
You can deduct as a business expense the costs of feeding and caring for a guard dog that protects your business and inventory. A deduction has also been allowed for cat food purchased by a scrap yard owner who used the food to attract wild cats who would chase away mice and snakes from the yard.
And you can deduct the cost of moving the family pet to a new home, if the move itself is deductible.
Can I deduct the cost of a wig? You can if prescribed by a doctor for your mental health when hair loss was caused by a disease or accident.
Early in my career, we had a client who we called the “wig lady.” She was an undercover store detective who posed as a shopper to catch shoplifters, and often wore disguises in the course of her work – including wigs. For her, the wigs were an “employee business expense.”
In many cases, in order to deduct something you must first be able to itemize. Years ago, a client told me she had donated her car to charity, because she read somewhere she would get a big tax deduction. But she was unable to itemize, even with the donation, so she got no benefit for her gift other than the thanks of the charity.
So – can I deduct my dry cleaning costs? It depends!
But before you deduct anything, talk to your tax professional.
--Written by Robert D. Flach for MainStreet
Robert Flach has more than 40 years of experience as a tax professional and also blogs as The Wandering Tax Pro.