Absurd Tax Break Requests: Darth Vader and Other "Clients" Weigh In
‘Tis the season that tax practitioners must break it to clients that no, you can't write off that trip to the Bahamas as a medical expense (yes, we understand it reduced your stress), claim the Golden Retriever as a dependent or tell the IRS that Botox use is a legitimate business expense because it helps you sell more homes. To put this annual ritual of wishful thinking in perspective, perhaps it would help to consider what types of tax breaks some of our most famous characters in film, TV and literature would try to claim.
Below are excerpts from focus group interviews with these characters talking about the tax breaks to which they feel that they are entitled. It seems as if they didn't all get along, and maybe it had something to do with that good versus evil thing. Or maybe it was the "but my tax break makes more sense" philosophy that can infect anyone, even the good guys.
Focus Group 1
Facilitator: Thank you all for coming here today to share insights on how the tax code could be improved and made fairer for you. Our group includes Frank Underwood, from “House of Cards,” Sheldon Cooper, star of “Big Bang Theory”, Superman, and Cruella de Vil, of “101 Dalmatians” fame. President Underwood, we'll start with you:
Frank Underwood: Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here. I think with so many people needing help, let's eliminate any provisions that benefit people like Jackie Sharp. She's the Assistant House Minority Whip and married to a surgeon – now why would they need a tax break? You really need to take a look at what she's doing. And, I think, perhaps, I should get a deduction just for being me. Maybe even named after me.
Sheldon Cooper: Ditto what Frank said, except that I'm way smarter than he is so I should get twice that deduction. Make that five times. Plus I haven't killed anybody.
Frank Underwood: Son, when you become the President of the United States, then we can talk about how smart you are. And I would suggest you stop wearing superhero shirts – you look ridiculous.
Superman: He can wear all the superhero shirts he wants. Got something to say about that? (Frank shakes his head.) Personally, I'd like a write-off on my Schedule C for the cape and the leotard – I am getting gouged, especially on dry cleaning, and you can't dispute I'm providing a public service. Yes, Frank, I said leotard, get over it.
Facilitator: And Cruella de Vil, how about you?
Facilitator: Can you be a little more specific – would this be a Schedule C item…
Facilitator: Ok, we'll move on then.
Frank (muttering): And they say I'm crazy.
Focus Group 2
Facilitator: Hello everyone – let me introduce you to each other - Darth Vader of “Star Wars” fame, Mary Poppins, Mr. Bill from “Saturday Night Live,” and Lord Voldemort, am I pronouncing that correctly? from the Harry P...
Voldemort: Don't say that boy's name or I'll send a Death Eater to your house.
Facilitator: Alrighty then. Why don't we start with you, Mr. Vader?
Darth Vader: I demand that the IRS let me deduct dating services. I seem to scare women off so I will need a third party to intervene. It's absurd. I head an evil empire, isn't that enough?
Mary Poppins: Quite right, dear.
Voldemort: A mask and heavy breathing, that's nothing, you helmet-headed twit. What about this? (He points to his noseless face.) And my CPA said the plastic surgery won’t exceed 10% of my AGI so I can't write any of it off.
Darth Vader (standing up): Who are you calling twit?
Mary Poppins: Gentlemen, really.
Facilitator: So what about you, Ms. Poppins?
Mary Poppins: I think it would be only proper to be able to claim sugar – it's getting quite expensive, and as you know, it's really the only way to get the medicine to go down.
Facilitator: Could you explain a bit more about how you would expense this?
Mary Poppins: I never explain.
Darth Vader: My empire has all the sugar you need. The Storm Troopers will bring you to the Death Star Saturday night, and we can talk about the details.
Mr. Bill: Oh no!!!!
Focus Group 3
Facilitator: Thank you all for participating - Wonder Woman, nice of you to join us, as well as Barney Fife from the “Andy Griffith Show” and Lady Macbeth, who needs no introduction. And Lassie, of course.
Wonder Woman: Since when do dogs pay taxes? Never mind. I've asked my CPA to appeal a decision to disallow my plane – because they can't see it, they say it's not tangible property. Ridiculous!
Barney Fife: I gotta ask since your plane is invisible, how do you know where you left it? I tell you what; I'd be losing that thing left and right. Yes, I would.
Wonder Woman: Yes, you probably would.
Facilitator: Let's keep moving, shall we – Lady Macbeth? Let me guess, hand sanitizer?
Lady Macbeth: ‘Tis better to dwell in sorrow for the treasure not stolen than be haunted by the specter of the law for a temporary joy.
Facilitator: In other words, you're better off not pushing your luck in claiming something legit to save a few bucks? Well said.
Facilitator: Ok, last but not least, Lassie?
Lassie (through a dog whisperer): I should at least get the volunteer mileage rate for all those trips to get Timmy out of that stupid well.
Ann Marie Maloney, Communications Manager-Tax, American Institute of CPAs.
Darth Vader courtesy of Stefano Buttafoco, Shutterstock.