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Craziest tax write-offs you've ever heard of

Have you heard the one about the doggie day care deduction? The male model? The pimped-out Amish buggy?

That's right -- Bankrate's back with another nine of the craziest tax write-offs you've ever heard of, in the hope it will make paying your 2006 federal income tax a little bit easier.

For our last installment of the nine weirdest write-offs, we combed the country collecting stories from certified public accountants about the craziest tax deductions they'd ever seen. The search turned up plenty of ingenious ways in which taxpayers have tried to justify deducting everything from ostrich breeding to sperm donations to dog food.

Dogs once again get their due in this year's collection. While our pets may seem like part of the family, as we will see, attempts to treat them as actual dependents -- or more outrageously, subcontractors -- simply won't fly with the Internal Revenue Service.

It's never a good idea to tempt fate by trying to slide one by Uncle Sam. Serious consequences may result from underreporting income, filing a false or erroneous claim, or attempting to make up your own personal tax rules.

Deductions in the tax code tend to fall into two broad categories, according to John Barghini, a CPA and partner in Hansen, Jergenson, Nergaard & Co. LLP of Minneapolis.

"Deductions are primarily related to business activities or where our government wants to reward us for being family people, as in dependent and day care deductions," he says.

While it may seem like deductions would be easy to abuse, Barghini says most taxpayers don't consider the reward worth the risk.

"I think there is more unreported income than there are overstated deductions," he says. "The deductions where people tend to fudge it are in charitable contributions. And some you can't fudge, because things like mortgage interest or real estate taxes are typically reported to the IRS."

Ah, but that doesn't mean we don't try.

Daffy deductions
Here are nine of the craziest write-offs we've ever heard of. Warning: Don't try these at home!
9 craziest deductions
1. Hidden asset
2. Dog-ductions, part 1
3. Now THAT's a super!
4. At that price, it should change diapers, too
5. Dog-ductions, part 2
6. Me? I'm a freelance food critic
7. Dog-ductions, part 3
8. Clothes (deductions) make the man
9. Pimp my buggy

1. Hidden asset
Elizabeth Dittrick of Dittrick & Associates in Cleveland was a staff accountant with Arthur Andersen when she witnessed a particularly uncomfortable client meeting with a married couple. The deduction was legitimate; it was the underlying asset that proved to be the problem.

"We were going over their tax information and the tax manager asked the gentleman, 'Now what about the mortgage interest deduction for the condo in Utah?' Unfortunately, the wife didn't know about the condo in Utah, where he had set up his mistress. It was a big 'oops' moment. There was this stony silence in the room. It was absolutely awful," she recalls.

-- Posted: Jan. 1, 2007
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