The Most Creative Incidents Of Tax Evasion

The Most Creative Incidents Of Tax Evasion

From weird costumes to breast implants—here are some tax deductions people got away with.

Nobody really likes to pay taxes, right? But of course, most of us understand our civic duties and dread tax authorities knocking at our door, and so we do the right thing. But not everyone is as noble; some choose to work their way around taxes by whatever means necessary. Here’s a list of some creative tax evasion stories for your entertainment.

ABBA’s strange outfits

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Those familiar with the Swedish band ABBA from the 70s would know that the four singers always performed in the strangest costumes. These costumes were so strange that they almost became the focal point of ABBA’s performances. But why did the group decide to dress so outlandishly? (Hint: it wasn’t just an attention-grabbing tactic.)

According to the Swedish tax code, performers were allowed to use stage costumes as tax deductibles, provided they were strange enough to never be wearable on the streets. The group used this law to keep themselves from being taxed. You might be wondering, how much could their costumes even cost? But when you consider that they needed more than one outfit each during their tours, as well as costumes for background dancers, the tax they saved from these weird costumes must have certainly helped.

Cynthia Hess’s breast implants 

Cynthia Hess is an American exotic dancer who used to go by the stage name Tonda Marie. Hess wanted to improve her business, and she decided that she could do so by getting breast implants. As her bra size jumped (up to 56FF), so did her business. Hess later underwent another surgery, following which her breast size went up to 56N. With another change in size, she aptly changed her stage name from Tonda Marie to “Chesty Love”

Hess wanted to classify the surgery as a business expense, but the American Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rejected it. Hess sued the IRS, and, during her trial, convinced the courts that the extremely heavy implants (10 pounds each) would only make sense for business purposes. 

The cat food deduction

In 2001, a junkyard owner convinced the IRS that cat food was a necessity for his business. His reasoning? The feral cats he fed with the cat food kept pests, like wild rats and snakes, at bay. His US$300 claim was eventually approved by the IRS. 

Another case of getting a pet food deduction is that of Jan Van Dusen, a cat lady from California. Dusen volunteered at a cat shelter and provided care to about 70 stray and feral cats. When filing her tax returns, she tried to claim US$12,068 as expenses relating to her volunteer work. Her claim was rejected by the IRS. She took the IRS to court and won the case, thus getting a tax deduction for the money she spent on cat food, vet bills and garbage bags, among other things.

While these cases show that tax evasion (on entirely legal grounds) is actually possible, you should never really test tax authorities. There have been many instances where tax authorities, like the IRS, actually catch up to evaders. For instance, one of the most famous tax evaders in the U.S. is hotel operator Leona Helmsley. Helmsley, who famously said “only little people pay taxes”, actually went to prison for 18 months for tax evasion. What you may save from evading now will not be worth the jail time later, so keep that in mind the next time you look for tax loopholes. 

Header image courtesy of Freepik

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