It all adds up to trouble but is it tax-deductible?

March 30, 1994|By ALICE STEINBACH

Some people, I am told, actually look forward to filling out income tax forms. Tax accountants, for example. Or, to name names, Mr. and Ms. H & R Block.

Most people, however, regard filling out income tax forms as something preferable only to being trapped in a room for an entire week while Whitney Houston sings "I Will Always Love You."

I, for your information, fall into the second category.

To be brutally frank, I am not amused by printed forms that require the following:

(a) that you add and subtract.

(b) that you print legibly.

(c) that you gather together important financial information that has been carefully recorded on the backs of Chinese carryout menus, torn corners of newspapers, junk mail envelopes and souvenir programs from the touring company of "Cats on Parade."

What I find particularly challenging at tax time, however, is the need to categorize all life into two parts:

That which is tax-deductible.

And that which is not.

The trick, of course, is to streamline the process by filing all your canceled checks into organized categories.

So far, I have several large manila folders marked: House Troubles, Cat Troubles, Man Troubles, Hair Troubles, Job Troubles, Car Troubles, General Troubles.

That's the easy part. The hard part is scrutinizing each check foits tax deductibility.

Take, for instance, checks 123 and 124. Made out, respectively, to "Karing Kitty Kat Emergency Service" and "Al's 24-Hour Emergency Plumbing Service," these checks clearly represent what I consider a legitimate business deduction.

Why? Let's just say that when the wage-earner in my house is away on business, her cats will play. They particularly like small crawl spaces that lead to such destinations as: the plumbing beneath the bathtub.

Need I say more?

Clearly, these two checks belong in the Cat Troubles Tax Deductible folder.

Not so clear-cut, however, is check 198. It's made out to "Arnie's 24-Hour Emergency Towing Service" and it's a perfect example of how bad things can happen to good people.

I'm referring here, of course, not to me but to the good people who had a bad day when, on my way to an important assignment, I accidentally ran them off the road. It seemed only fair to pay their towing charges.

Now, clearly, since I was on the job, this is a tax-deductible item. The ambiguity arises in regard to where it should be filed.

It's a toss-up between Car Troubles and Hair Troubles.

See, I'd just had a really bad perm and kept looking at my hair in the rear-view mirror, hoping it might have straightened out on the drive to my assignment.

It was a terrible experience. My bad perm, that is, not the accident.

In dilemmas such as this, I always ask myself: "What would my idol, Thoreau, have done in this situation?"

I filed check 198 into the Hair Troubles folder.

Check 118 almost brings a smile to my face. Almost.

Made out to "Madame Perestroika's 24-hour Emergency Psychic Hotline," it reminds me of how happy I was at the thought of the "short, dark-haired stranger who would enter my life and change it forever."

Again, there's a certain ambiguity about this item. See, the "short, dark-haired stranger" turned out to be a stray black cat who wandered into my back yard one day. And never left.

Let's see: Man Troubles or Cat Troubles? Since neither men or cats seem to be deductible items, check 118 goes into the more supple General Troubles folder.

Check 93, made out to "Muffy Chat, Cat Therapist," is an interesting one.

Ms. Chat, responding to signs of boredom in my cat, suggested I carry him around the house and show him what things looked like above floor level. Give him the people's-eye view, so to speak.

The cat really liked it. He seemed particularly stimulated at the sight of my Wedgwood china in a cabinet over the kitchen sink. By the way, did I mention check 93 led to check 94, the one made out to "Wedgwood's Emergency Replacement Service?"

Which reminds me: If, say, a person donates a cat to charity, is that a legitimate deduction?

If anyone out there knows the answer, please fax me.

Preferably before April 15.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.