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A tax return is a lot like love. It can be beautiful and wonderful, or it can rip your heart out, leave you penniless, and it’s way harder to get if you’re a freelancer. Also like love, ensuring a strong, healthy ... um ... return requires lots of attention and hard work. How else will you find enough deductions to write off on your taxes? Okay, this metaphor is getting away from itself, but here are some of the most insane things you can write off next year’s taxes.
You Can Still Count Your Kid As A Dependent If They’re Abducted
The worst nightmare of any parent is that their children will be kidnapped. Watching Liam Neeson brutally murder 12,000 sex traffickers in like three days seems entirely plausible, because we secretly expect our parents to do the exact same thing. A parent whose child is lost is inconsolable until the kid is found or they’ve snapped every last terrorist neck. But until that happens, distraught parents can at least comfort themselves with a sweet tax break.
Back in 2000, the I.R.S. was faced with a conundrum: Could these parents still write off their kids as dependents, even if they weren’t exactly living at home? To be clear, this isn’t a situation where a kid went missing for 24 hours and was swiftly found -- the taxpayer in question wanted to know if they could write off a kid who’d been gone for over a year. The argument was that the parents had spent money searching for the kid and maintaining their room for whenever they came back. These are clearly heartbroken people undergoing the worst crisis imaginable, but it's easy for the callused to think, "Unless the kid’s collectible Star Wars figurines keep mysteriously breaking themselves, 'maintenance' can only be so expensive."
Holy crap, that's depressing when you put it into this context.
The I.R.S. ended up releasing a public statement saying that, yes, parents could receive a tax exemption for their missing child, but only for the year of the kidnapping. So if your child disappears in December, it’s really a waste, since you’ve already been paying for that kid all year. The logic is that for someone to be your “dependent,” you’d need to provide more than half their support for the year. If they’re literally not around for multiple years, it doesn’t seem entirely fair for somebody to write them off. Unless they’re the kidnapper, I guess.
Strippers Can Technically Write Off Breast Enhancements
In this economy, there sometimes just aren’t enough jobs to go around, and that’s doubly true if you insist on conducting business with a name like “Chesty Love”. Fortunately, Chesty’s name is actually quite suitable for the exotic dancing industry -- she's very fortunate that her parents named her that. Eventually, she felt that her namesakes weren’t as lovely as they could be, so she decided to up her game by having her breasts enlarged. While she was at it, she enlarged the American tax code. She’s a real Renaissance woman, and not just on Shake Your Botticelli Night.
Don't shake it too hard. It'll erase like an Etch A Sketch.
Ms. Love claimed the her newfound assets qualified as a business expense because in her line of work, bigger breasts equal bigger tips. Amazingly, the I.R.S. agreed, but they did make a few things clear before anybody else rushed out to snag some tax-free bazoongas. First, you’ll have to prove that the breast enhancement was somehow essential to your job. Sorry, no free knockers for plumbers and accountants. Secondly, and this is key, those breasts have to be considered basically useless for anything else. See, Chesty blew her breasts out to a whopping 56N. Aside from making her impossible to drown, breasts of that size are likely to be more of an inconvenience anywhere outside of a gentleman’s club. Of course, that raises the question: Who decides how big is big enough? Whose job over at the I.R.S. is it to determine whether a woman is too tastefully enhanced?
And you all probably thought working for the I.R.S. was boring!
In Florida, You Can Get A Tax Break For Having A Cow (Even If It’s Basically Rented)
To avoid becoming a sprawling Disney-themed dystopia, Florida offers special tax breaks for farmland. The law was introduced in 1959 to help it remain economically feasible for Florida farmers to use their land for agriculture instead of selling it to build another strip mall or meth lab. But thanks to vague wording, almost anybody can take advantage of this special tax break. All you need to do is find somebody willing to rent you a few cows ... which is easier than you’d think as long as nobody asks too many questions.
It doesn’t even have to be very many cows. For example, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson has saved over $43,000 a year by parking six cows on 55 acres of his land. If Nelson was audited, it’d probably take months for anybody to even find the damn things on all that land without a helicopter or dedicated satellite surveillance. That’s pretty shady, but at least it’s inspired some pretty fantastic protesters over the years.
We automatically support this issue. Well done, cow protester.
Ironically, one of the primary beneficiaries of this exemption happens to be the exact person lawmakers were hoping to stop: Mickey Mouse. Before they’re ready to build, Disney and other developers will often allow ranchers to use their land for free as a way to save potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on their taxes. Just by letting a few cows roam around 1,600 acres of undeveloped land, Disney was allowed to pay taxes on the $194 million property as if it was worth just $12.3 million.
Blind Military Vets Can Buy A Tax-Free Car Every Two Years In Arkansas
For their service, American military veterans qualify for numerous benefits back in the states like free college tuition, health care, and and an occasional free meal at Applebee’s. Even more options open up if a veteran has received a significant injury as a part of their service. For example, it was recently ruled that injured veterans could receive additional disability benefits to help deal with physical pain resulting from their time in the military, which seems to make a lot of sense. In Arkansas, injured vets can purchase a new, tax-free vehicle every two years. The only stipulation is that they are straight-up blind.
"This nature outing would be much more awesome in a Camaro."
Now, I’m aware that this is intended to help the caretaker or the family, but it’s strange that the law is only for blind veterans. It makes no mention of the hundreds of other disability-inducing injuries while in service.
It's just so ultra specific. It's like the people who made that law said, "We need to show our support for injured veterans ... but it needs to be something that will be utilized so rarely that it's almost nonexistent." But if you're from Arkansas, you're a vet, you're blind, you have a letter from the VA, you're buying a new car every other year, and it's not a 3/4 ton truck or bigger ... then reap the rewards of a tax-free automobile!
You Can Get A Tax Credit For Building Nuclear Fallout Shelters
In 1961, New York’s state legislature decided that they wanted people to build more fallout shelters. JFK was telling everybody how important shelters were for “survival insurance,” and so steps were taken to encourage people to fortify their homes in case of a nuclear assault from the Russians. The crazy thing is that 50 years later, you can still save money for even the crappiest little bunkers.
One family in living in Queens has been refunded $127 a year on their taxes just by owning a 300-square-foot concrete room under the basement. For a long time, the family wasn’t even aware they were receiving tax benefits, because why in the world would they? But it’s not just New York that qualifies for this stuff. New Jersey has opportunities to save up to $1,000 on taxes for any family with a bunker deemed legit enough.
Hopefully, this inspires some change in your weekend chores. Painting the living room can wait -- the most important thing on your to-do list now is build a radioactive fallout shelter in your front yard.
In Mexico, You Can Pay Your Taxes With Artwork
Mexico has something of a tax problem. In the past 40 years or so, the country has lost some $872 billion to money laundering and tax evasion. One might assume that a government hemorrhaging that kind of money to tax fraud would be extremely strict about ensuring that all non-criminals pay their taxes on time and in their entirety. You wouldn’t assume, for example, that they would be cool with letting people pay their taxes by, say, handing over a couple of random paintings they had lying around. But that’s exactly what’s happening.
Back in 1957, a Mexican muralist named David Alfaro Siqueiros needed a way to keep his friend and fellow artist out of jail. The artist was going in for tax evasion, but Siqueiros suggested to the secretary of finance that the artist pay his debt not in jail time but in art. Incredibly, the secretary agreed, and the “Payment in Kind” program was born. 40 years later, the program has collected over 7,000 different paintings, sculptures and other works as federal tax payments. Mexican artist Antonio Ortiz hasn’t paid a single peso in tax for the past 28 years, and the government is completely cool with it.
It works with a teird system of required donations. If an artist sells between one and five pieces, they have to donate one to the government. If it’s between four and six, then it’s two, and so on until it’s capped at six pieces ... presumably because the government doesn’t want to seem greedy. The submitted works are examined by a committee of artists and curators, who confirm that they’re of a certain quality. This presumably weeds out the “artists” who sell a finger painting to their mom and then submit a second one to get out of taxes. But then again, some Mexican art can be pretty weird:
"And that's how I met your mother."
The program is so popular that even when President Enrique Peña Nieto promised a massive tax overhaul back in 2012, everybody knew the “Payment in Kind” program would be safe. In fact, they’re considering expanding the program to include other mediums such as performance art. So, yes, it’s possible that one day Mexican citizens will be able to literally dance or sing their way out of paying their taxes instead of funneling their money through overseas shell companies like honest Americans.
Taking Care Of “Exceptional Trees” Can Save Thousands In Hawaii
In 1975, Hawaii was pretty worried about the effects of deforestation. To help preserve the state’s natural beauty, the legislature passed The Exceptional Tree Act. The act forces each county to set up a mandatory “County Arborist Advisory Committee,” who sets their own guidelines as to what qualifies as an "exceptional” tree". Then they go out looking for trees that capture their hearts and minds, and when they find one, they offer the property owner up to $3,000 in dowry payments -- er, tax breaks.
Some have ridiculed this law, claiming that it primarily benefits rich people who already own historic, tax-exempt homes and properties. One property was assessed at $7.8 million, but thanks to tax exemptions stemming from exceptional trees and a historically important house, they only had to pay a little over $600.
"We're going to pass on this one, as it tends to summon the damned."
Obviously, the law was established to try and encourage people to hold onto their really nice trees rather than cut them down to build another Wal-Mart. In that way, it probably succeeds -- it’d just be nice if the people benefitting the most didn’t seem to often already be rich. Although it must be pretty awesome to sit in on one of those meetings where a half-dozen arborists argue about wood.
Like this article? Check out "5 Times That Suspected Cheaters Weren't Actually Cheating" and "5 People Who Won Big By Manipulating The System".