Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest and severe weather events, the Tax Court has continued to churn out decisions affecting individual and business taxpayers. Here’s a brief sampling of several cases that may be of particular interest.
- Coming Up Aces. (Coleman, TC Memo 146, 10/22/20) You can generally deduct gambling losses up to the amount of your winnings from gambling activities if you can provide proper documentation. Now the Tax Court has allowed one taxpayer to estimate his expenses absent proper documentation.
Facts: A compulsive gambler was able to show that he likely spent the money from a $150,000 personal injury settlement in local casinos. The gambler, however, didn’t have the usual records to substantiate his claims. The Court allowed an estimated deduction because it was clear he had incurred significant expenses. The gambler was able to net his $350,000 in gambling winnings with $350,000 in estimated gambling losses.
Tax Tip: Save documentation for all your tax deductions, including gambling winnings and losses. Don't rely on a tax court ruling!
- Home (Not) Sweet Home. (Soboyede, TC Summ. Op. 2021-3, 1/26/21) Your tax home for deducting travel expenses isn’t necessarily the place where you live. It’s the general area of your primary workplace.
Facts: The taxpayer was an attorney with separate law practices in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. He deducted his hotel expenses and other travel costs in the D.C. area. But his records showed he actually spent more than 50% of his work time in or near the D.C. location. The Tax Court concluded that the attorney’s tax home is actually in D.C. As a result, he couldn’t deduct his hotel and other expenses from the D.C. area.
Tax Tip: You can deduct travel expenses only away from your tax home. If you work in multiple locations, be sure you know which location the IRS considers to be your tax home.
- Skidding Off The Race Track. (Berry, TC Memo 2021-42, 4/7/21) A business can deduct advertising and marketing expenses that are related to its business activities. No write-off is allowed, however, for personal expenses.
Facts: A father and son who owned a construction company were race car enthusiasts. They deducted expenses for the son’s racing activities that were incurred as an advertising and marketing expense of the construction company. The Tax Court disallowed the deduction, ruling the expenses were a hobby expenditure, not an ordinary and necessary business expense that can be deducted for tax purposes.
Tax Tip: Understand what is considered an ordinary and necessary business expense by the IRS and know whether your activity is deemed to be either a hobby or a for-profit business enterprise.
- A Slight Understatement. (Pragrias, TC Memo 2021-82, 6/30/21) The IRS normally has three years from the due date of a tax return to conduct an audit of that return. This three-year period is extended to six years, however, if the tax return omits more than 25% of taxable income.
Facts: The taxpayer received $4.9 million from a complex investment but reported only about $1.5 million. The IRS audited the return after three years. Despite the taxpayer’s contention that he didn’t omit taxable income—he said he merely understated it—the Tax Court ruled that the longer six-year limit applies. And as a general rule, there is no statute of limitations for the IRS when fraud is involved.
Tax Tip: Understand the applicable statute of limitations with your tax returns.