Ghost Hunter, Pheasant Hunter, or Deduction Hunter: No Matter, He Loses at Tax Court

My favorite Tax Court judge, Mark Holmes, is out with an opinion where Ghostbusters makes an appearance. And once again keeping records would win the day but perhaps that would take a supernatural effort from today’s petitioner.

David Laudon is a chiropractor licensed in Minnesota. He made nearly $290,000 in bank deposits from 2007 to 2009 yet reported only a bit less than $210,000 in gross receipts on his returns. He deducted as business expenses for his chiropractic home office a Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and numerous pieces of hair-salon equipment. He also claimed deductions for driving tens of thousands of miles throughout Minnesota and the Dakotas–both to treat patients and to perform an assortment of other services. The Commissioner thought this was a stretch and urges us to support his adjustments.

This doesn’t look good, especially when I see the words,

Some of Laudon’s stated reasons for making these trips strain credibility: for example, driving to a “schizophrenic” patient who was–on more than one occasion–“running scared of demons” down a rural Minnesota highway, or driving to a patient’s home in a Minneapolis suburb– expensing 261 miles–because he had received a call from police that she had overdosed on OxyContin prescribed by her physician. Laudon claimed to have driven hundreds of miles per day–sometimes without a valid license–to see patients, but several of these trips were for medical procedures he was not licensed to perform. Even his testimony about multiple entries in the logs where he wrote “DUI” was not credible: He claimed that these were not references to being stopped by police while under the influence, or driving while his license was suspended, but instead were his misspellings of a patient named “Dewey”–a supposed patient of his. [emphasis in original]

That’s just a taste of the decision. I won’t go into the minutiae, but I think you’ve got a taste of what’s going on. The details include unreported income (“But because he didn’t produce any evidence verifying that these amounts were deposited into the relevant accounts, Laudon hasn’t met his burden of proof.”), an automobile log that was “‘not a complete itemized thing'” led to those deductions being denied, and a home office that wasn’t exclusive (“We particularly disbelieve his claim that the Xbox, Wii, big-screen TVs, and other electronics in his basement were used exclusively for chiropractic purposes since this claim conflicts with his much more plausible admission to the IRS examiner during audit that his daughter and his girlfriend’s son would play these video games while he was on the phone.”) and had no substantiation led to that being denied.

As I’ve said in the past, keep a mileage log. Keep records of your deductions. Ask your tax professional about the rules to have a home office. And keep good records.

Case: Laudon v. Commissioner, T.C. Summary Opinion 2015-54

One Response to “Ghost Hunter, Pheasant Hunter, or Deduction Hunter: No Matter, He Loses at Tax Court”

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