The Comprehensive List of Odd Tax Deductions

Since taxes have existed, Americans have been trying to exempt themselves.

Here are some interesting things that can be deducted, as well as some that can’t.

  • 1. Ship Repairs

    Whaling captains can claim up to 10,000 for ship repairs and equipment. However, you’d better be a Native American if you want to be a whaler in the USA. [1]

  • 2. “Exceptional” Trees

    If you have an araucaria heterophylla—commonly known as Norfolk Pine—in your backyard, you’re in luck. At least if your backyard is in Hawaii. The Norfolk Pine is considered an “exceptional tree” in the Aloha State, and you could get a $3,000 deduction to maintain the special species. [2]

  • 3. Moving expenses

    moving a pet.[1]

  • 4. Restitution in a fraud case

    An insurance company sued two doctors for insurance fraud. The doctors admitted liability and agreed to reimburse the insurer for the losses it sustained, and the insurance company agreed to release a claim for restitution in a pending criminal case. The IRS ruled that the repayments are deductible provided that the doctors originally included the money in their incomes in prior years. But to demonstrate that crime doesn’t fully pay, the IRS said the repaid funds are a miscellaneous itemized deduction that’s allowed only to the extent it exceeds 2% of the doctors’ adjusted gross incomes. [5]

  • 5. Swimming pool

    If it’s necessary for medical purposes. [1]

  • 6. Tax Breaks for Drug Dealers

    If you make your money dealing illegal drugs, getting your taxes right might not be high on your list of priorities, but just because the money is made illegally, doesn’t mean the IRS won’t accept taxes on it. The Tax Court has clarified some potentially helpful details on the situation. (Remember, sometimes tax evasion is easier to prove than more insidious crimes. Think Al Capone.) Baggies and soil for marijuana plants are not deductible. Neither is the apartment you work from or the cost of your security team. However, you can deduct the cost of your product. [3]

  • 7. Quitting smoking

    Costs of programs or patches etc… [1]

  • 8. Defense costs for criminals


  • 9. Losing weight

    Only on doctor’s orders. [1]

  • 10. Kidnapped Children

    Parents of kidnapped children can now claim them as dependents until they turn 18—previously it was only the year in which they were taken. [9]

  • 11. Deadbeat Friends

    That cash you lent your friend in a pinch? Even if they skip out on repaying you, all is not lost. You can write off the unpaid amount if there’s no hope to collect payment. [2]

  • 12. Ostrich Depreciation

    As their livestock ages, farmers can deduct the depreciated value from their taxable income if the animals are used for breeding. In the past, the IRS allowed a Louisiana ostrich farmer to depreciate the cost of his ostrich. [2]

  • 13. Bow & Arrow

    Straight as an Arrow? The government has long imposed an excise tax on arrows, with the money raised going to fund wildlife restoration. Now an excise tax of 46 cents, as of 2012, is imposed on arrows that are more than 18 inches and/or are suitable for a specific kind of bow with a specific amount of draw. Wooden arrows designed for use by children are exempt. Obviously. [3]

  • 14. Rewards for Renting

    If you rent space for fewer than 15 days in one calendar year, all the related income is completely tax free. If you rent it out for more than 15 days, “your income is taxable as rental income and you could allocate certain expenses,” says H&R Block’s Gil Charney. So listen up, New Orleans and New Jersey taxpayers: Two weeks is the max for renting out your house for the Super Bowl. Hamptons homeowners likely already know the rule. [3]

  • 15. Pregnancy Tests

    This deduction is specifically listed in the tax code, but that doesn’t make it any less odd. So go ahead and stock up on those tests at the pharmacy, because there’s nothing in this deduction that requires the test be administered by a physician. [4]

  • 16. Transportation to Donate an Organ

    Organ donor can deduct not only any medical costs associated with the donation, but also costs of transportation. [4]

  • 17. Making movies

    A lawyer faced a challenge from IRS as she sought to deduct losses during the six years for she worked at making a documentary film, “Smile Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story.” IRS claimed the long series of annual losses indicated that her film making activities were a hobby, pointing out that since her husband once was a member of the musical group Up With People, the project was a sort of high-cost home movie. [5]

  • 18. Fancy dresses…

    But only if they’re so tight you can’t sit in them. Celebrity Dinah Shore claimed some formal dresses on her tax return, and, as you might suspect, the IRS immediately cried foul. Dinah explained that the frocks were business expenses; she only wore them on her television show and couldn’t possibly wear them for personal reasons because they were so tight she couldn’t actually sit down in them. The last laugh was on Dinah, though – although the IRS agreed to let her deduct the dresses, legend has it they sent a representative to judge which dresses really were too tight to sit down in. [6]

  • 19. Amish Buggy

    Well, it wasn’t the buggy that was questionable – it was used for business and is a legitimate expense. It was the tricked-out accessories the young Amish man wanted to include on the write-off: dash lights, kick plates, tinted windshield, speedometer, hydraulic brakes and dimmer switches. [6]

  • 20. Foreign Nationals Gambling

    Foreign nationals gambling legally in the US are exempt from the 30% withholding tax on their winnings that Americans must pay.Songwriters selling their catalog of songs can claim it as a capital asset, and pay the capital-gains tax rate—15% or less—rather than the income tax rate—which can go up to 35%. [9]

  • 21. Deep sea fishing

    Again, as long as business discussions are conducted and considered in the cost of doing business, it would be possible to deduct this type of expense. It is difficult to inspire investments and other funding if you are unable to impress clients to some degree. Understand just how much of these types of expenses can be deducted before filing your return. [7]

  • 22. Bariatric Surgery

    Want to lose a couple of inches this year? In 2002, the IRS ruled that obesity is a medical disease, which means that specific treatments aimed at curbing obesity are allowable deductions, including bariatric surgery. As with all medical expenses, you can only deduct unreimbursed expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). [8]

  • 23. Addiction Treatment

    Speaking of drinking, you probably know that too much is bad for your health. Drinking, smoking and drug abuse are serious medical hazards, so the IRS has ruled that you can write off expenses related to quitting. Eligible deductions can include the cost of any products or programs designed to help you quit, including nicotine patches or other aids. In-patient treatment at a drug or alcohol facility including meals, lodging and some transportation expenses can also be deducted as medical expenses. Additionally, transportation to and from meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, if attended based on doctor’s orders, can also be written off. [8]

  • 24. Makers of fishing-tackle boxes

    Makers of fishing-tackle boxes no longer have to pay a 10% excise tax on each box—a provision inserted into the 2004 jobs creation bill lowered the rate to 3%. [9]

And a few attempts at tax deductions that were rejected by the IRS:

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About Varda Epstein

Varda Meyers Epstein serves as editor in chief of Kars4Kids Parenting. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Varda is the mother of 12 children and is also a grandmother of 12. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Learning Site, The eLearning Site, and Internet4Classrooms.