I hope everyone has already filed their taxes. I already got my refund (and I'll explain my plans for it in my next post).
In this post there are some tax deduction tips and a morality question: Should you deduct charitable contributions (including tithes and offerings paid to your church)?
If you haven't filed yet and are looking for some deductions, you can see if any of these apply to you: Kiplinger's Top 10 Oddball Deductions
Now that I know we can deduct "meeting expenses" so long as we go to Bermuda and other places in the Carribean, I know where to schedule my next "business" affair. i.e. a marriage is like a business. So a honeymoon would be like a business meeting... right? ;-)
And of course deducting body oil is something interesting. Tell the truth, who among you could deduct that right now? I want to know.
The best one, hands down, is the breast implant deduction. It's #7, just read it.
But if none of those deductions are possible for you, look here for a list that might actually help you: Kiplinger's 13 Most overlooked tax deductions
Only #1 and #5 seem to apply to me.
#1 Sales tax: Tennessee doesn't have an income tax but the sales tax is killer at 9.25% (even groceries are 8.5%). But my tax preparer told me that unless I bought something big -- a house, boat, car, major appliances -- any deduction I claimed would be too small to bother with.
#5 Out-of-pocket charitable contributions: This is where I get a quizzical look on my face and don't know how to approach this. Claim the ingredients for the casserole you made for charity? I mean, unless you're going broke doing that, why would you claim such a thing? Aren't you making the casserole as a gift? A donation? A service? Should you deduct things like that?
Even driving to do charity work unless you're putting more mileage on your car for that than you do for your job and personal use, seems wrong to claim. (In the case of driving for Katrina relief work, I think claiming the mileage if fair... that ain't a short trek and the gov doesn't seem to be doing anything)
My church provides every member with a receipt for the money they've given -- in tithes and/or offerings -- for tax purposes.
But I didn't claim that on my taxes. It seems wrong to me. If you believe in tithing, you know that you tithe 10%. That's gross, not net, because if you tithe net, then you're paying the government before you're paying God. So, if you get the money back through taxes, then you've gotten your blessing that way, and not God's way, whatever way that may be.
(To be perfectly honest, I am not officially tithing. 10% of my gross wouldn't allow me to pay down debt at all. Of course, some would argue if I paid my full 10% I wouldn't have to worry about that -- but that's a deeper theological discussion than I want to get into here.)
If you're not a Christian, or not at all religious, is it still all right to claim charitable deductions like that? I could see if you handed off thousands of dollars... but even then, what it the purpose of your gift? Are you doing it to provide something to your community or are you doing it to hide money from Uncle Sam? Or does it even matter why you gave it, so long as you gave something?
Personally, it seems there's a hint of hyprocrisy in claiming every little charitable contribution. When I hand $5 to a vagrant or stick a dollar in the Salvation Army drums around Christmas, I may put that into my spending record to know where my money went, but I count that as money gone and hopefully on to do something good for someone. When, how or if it comes back to me shouldn't be my concern. That's what makes it a sacrifice.
I'd love to know what yall think.