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Clarinets? Safaris? Tax Season's Weirdest Deductions

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. tax code runs more than 73,000 pages, and Bob Meighan, vice president of customer advocacy for TurboTax, says 10,000 of them have been added in just the past five years.

"It's growing," Meighan says.

Being so large, the tax code includes several peculiar but permissible deductions.  This year's catalog of odd deductibles, compiled by TurboTax, includes the following:

Conventions in Bermuda

You and your fellow conventioneers can wiggle your pinkies in the pink sand and deduct your travel costs without having to justify to the IRS why Bermuda was the place you had to go.  The same holds true for other Caribbean nations, including Barbados and Grenada.  Meetings held in Canada, Mexico or in a U.S. possession also qualify.


TurboTax says taxpayers can thank the orthodontists for this one.  If your doctor prescribes playing the clarinet as the solution to your child's overbite, then the instrument and any necessary lessons are deductible.

The Costs of a Suspect's Defense (If Related to His/Her Business)

Somebody on trial for shoplifting, say, might permissibly deduct his lawyer bills on the argument that they were incurred to protect the criminal's source of income, e.g., shoplifting.

Deadbeat Debts

If you lend money to a friend and the friend stiffs you, you're in luck, at least for IRS purposes.  You can write off the debt, TurboTax says.  Deadbeat personal loans, however, are different from deadbeat business loans: A personal loan gone bad must be 100 percent uncollectible for it to qualify.

Swimming Pools

Your doctor must prescribe it for your health, Meighan says, but if he or she does, then your swimming pool is deductible, to the extent its cost exceeds the value that it adds to your home.

Getting Thin

In 2002, according to TurboTax, the IRS ruled that obesity is a medical disease requiring treatment and, further, that such treatments are deductible.  If the treatment's cost exceeds 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, it qualifies.


Trips necessary to one's business, Meighan says, are deductible.  Let's suppose you run a petting zoo outside Chicago, and that what is being petted is a zebra.  You go on a safari to Kenya (or to wherever else, outside Chicago, zebra live).  To the extent the safari relates to your zoo, Meighan says, it's deductible -- maybe you're learning more about the animal's habitat, so you can better re-create.  In a kind of "two-for," there's a further deduction the proprietor can claim: animal depreciation.  That zebra isn't going to live forever.  As it ages, its decrease in value can be deducted.

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