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Sallie Mullins Thompson, CPA PLLC

Navigating Your Financial Life Through Effective Tax Strategies


New York Today: Taxpayer Questions, C.P.A. Answers

| May 31, 2017


Today I would like to share a link to a NY Times article for which I was interviewed– during tax season, too!  The subject discussed relates to atypical personal costs that I've had questions on from clients - as to whether these are actually legitimate tax deductions.
Please enjoy the article and feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions


      Sallie Mullins Thompson, CPA/PFS, CFP, MBA


Updated, 10:38 a.m.

Good morning on this radiant Tuesday.

Tax Day (next Tuesday) is near.

So to help as you crunch numbers and power through paperwork, members of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants shared a few of the common, or unusual, questions they have been asked.

The queries usually start with, “Can I deduct …”

A gym membership? That’s one that John R. Lieberman, a certified public accountant and personal finance specialist at Perelson Weiner, is frequently asked.

“Generally speaking, it is not deductible unless it’s a condition of your employment,” he explained. “If you’re in Cirque du Soleil, that expense is deductible. If you’re trying to get on Cirque du Soleil, the answer is no.”

Clothing? It’s deductible only if it’s mandatory for your job but unsuitable for everyday wear. “If you can wear it in public, in a normal situation, it’s not deductible,” Mr. Lieberman said. A tuxedo or gown that you could wear to a work event or wedding would not be deductible, but a mechanic’s outfit that says “Amber’s Auto Body Shop” in large letters would be.

Rent? The “home-office deduction” comes up regularly in the city because rents are so high and many New Yorkers work from home, he said, and “There’s a limitation on that; it’s all about documentation and reasonableness.”

Botox? Mr. Lieberman said he gets this inquiry primarily from men, as a job-hunting expense. The answer is no.

Tattoo removal? Also cosmetic and not deductible, according to Sallie Mullins Thompson, a C.P.A. and financial planner.

Pet care? Clients have asked Ms. Thompson whether they can deduct pet food and maintenance as a charitable contribution if the pet comes from a shelter or rescue organization. “No,” she said.

A cellphone bill? “You can deduct it, if you’re an employee using the cellphone for business but your employer did not reimburse you for the cost,” she said.

And transportation? Depending on your situation, you may be able to write off transit as an unreimbursed employee expense, Ms. Thompson said. If you’re using a MetroCard, for example, to commute to work, you cannot write off the expense. But if you were using your MetroCard to go from your office to see a client and were not reimbursed, you may deduct the cost of that trip.