We’re Getting a Pass on that April 15 Tax Deadline—But What About Next Year?
Some 2020 deductions to start thinking about now
By Ed Goldman
As you know, we’ve been granted an extension to file our 2019 federal income taxes, which would have been due today. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start concentrating on our 2020 returns and lining up shoe boxes on the dining room table in which to toss our receipts and hope they’ll remain in chronological order and sort themselves by month and category by the time we begin compiling them, around 11:59 p.m. on April 14, 2021.
This year has already brought us terror and sadness. But can you think of another time in our history when the purchase of toilet paper, no matter its ply, may turn out to be deductible? And because of the commodity’s scarcity for weeks, do you agree that we’ll emerge from this horrible time as a stronger but more anal-retentive nation?
I’ve been concocting a list of potential deductions for next year’s filing. But I’ve refrained from showing it to my real-life accountant for fear he’ll glance at it and drop me as a client faster than you can say, “Court-appointed attorney.”
Here are some 2020 deduction ideas for you and your certified (or certifiable) tax preparer’s consideration:
THE NETS. I’m sure you’ve heard accounting terminology such as Net Asset Value, Net Income, Net Loss, Net Proceeds and Net Worth.
For next year’s taxes, let’s add another category: Netflix.
While you were home-bound because of your job and/or parental responsibilities, I’m guessing you watched more movies and old TV shows than you’d ever thought possible—to the point that you can not only hum all the theme songs from shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “Bonanza,” but now can also recall the lyrics. (Trivia buffs: the “Bonanza” theme song really had words, though they were wisely swept under the rug by Hop Sing, the Cartwright clan’s housekeeper, cook and brunt of racist humor. A sampling: “On this land/We put our brand/Cartwright is the name./Fortune smiled/The day we filed/The Ponderosa claim…”)
So why not share the expense of all this streaming with the United States government? You didn’t ask to self-isolate, folks. And you certainly didn’t plan on the siege of toddlers taking over every room, TV and computer in your house. In fact, some of you may have been surprised you even had toddlers.
“Didn’t Billy and Mallory go off to college a few years ago?”
“These are your grandchildren. Billy, Jr. and Margarita.”
“And Douggie, Freddy, Howard, Mamie, Larissa and Samir.”
THE SHELF-EMPLOYMENT TAX. If you work for someone else, you really can’t hope the actual Self-Employment Tax will be of any use to you. However, the all-new Shelf-Employment Tax may cover the cost of the additional bookcases you needed to add to contain all of the hard-copy files, modems, extra monitor (so you could turn an Xcel Spread Sheet into a wide-screen movie), bowling tournament trophies, Midge From Accounting’s famous rumballs from three Christmases ago which you stored in your credenza, and, of course, your family photos. (One tip for maintaining your sanity: replace the family photos with pictures of your co-workers. They’re the ones you actually may be missing.)
VEHICLE ABUSE. Since you ain’t going anywhere in a hurry, you aren’t entitled to deduct vehicle use. But Vehicle Abuse is another story altogether. Every day you work at home you go into your garage and start up the car to make sure its battery doesn’t die. (The fact that you do this every two hours and that it’s crossed your mind to not leave the garage door open while doing so reveals more about your state of mind than an audit ever would.) In my opinion, you should be able to write off the wear-and-tear on your house Uggs for whenever you trod in and out of the garage, as well as the cleaning bill you incur to get the garage floor’s grease marks removed from the Uggs.
PUBLICATIONS AND PRESCRIPTIONS. Yes, this category used to be called Publications and Subscriptions, but let’s be clear. If there were such thing as a Valium tree, by now you’d have been shinnying its branches and eating the leaves, looking like a panda in sweats. Why should you have to pay for your own nerve-calming drugs? You’re keeping this economy going!
HOME ORIFICE. If during this period of sheltering at home you’ve found yourself also sheltering a stupendous amount of M&Ms and Cinnabon® Products in your mouth—enroute to your waistline—ask yourself these questions (answers appear upside down below if you stand on your head to read them)
a. Is it your fault?
b. Does the fault lie with the United States of America, the president, Hillary Clinton or Hop Sing?
Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).