Are you in business? Can you deduct business expenses?

by Kenneth Hoffman in ,

One answer is once you start generating revenue. In Michael S. Oros (T.C. Memo. 2012-4) the taxpayer traveled to South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia with the intention of writing a book. He took some 4,500 photographs and maintained a contemporaneous journal in which he wrote about his different experiences. But some four years later he had not published or completed a book about his trip. On his 2006 tax return he deducted travel, meal, and telephone expenses for a total loss of $19,140. The Court noted that to be engaged in a trade or business a taxpayer must me regularly and actively involved in the activity. The Court said that while some of the facts in the record suggested the taxpayer was engaged in a trade or business (business plan, journal, etc.), it went on to say the taxpayer failed to present any evidence of continuous or repeated activity as an author, and he was a full-time employee. The Court denied a deduction for the claimed expenses.

In Javier L. Gaitan et al. (T.C. Memo. 2012-3) the taxpayer had a business exporting clothing. The IRS disallowed a subtraction for cost of goods sold amounting to $134,575. The taxpayer attempted to prove the amount by (1) receipts and (2) an American Express card, claiming such evidence substantiated $70,275 of the amount disallowed. The Court found four problems with the receipts:

 They did not indicated which purchases were for export and which were for the taxpayers' personal use.

  • Many of the receipts were illegible.
  • Many of the receipts did not clearly identify the purchaser.
  • Some of the receipts show the purchases were made for another business the taxpayers' owned.

The Court noted that the production of the American Express credit card statements was also flawed. The Court sided with the IRS in disallowing the cost of goods sold deduction.

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