Even the IRS acknowledged that former television news anchor Anietra Hamper kept meticulous records of the clothes and other items she bought for business use.
But detailed receipts weren’t enough. An IRS audit — and a tax judge — concluded that nearly all the business expenses that Hamper listed as deductions on her 2005-08 federal income-tax returns were invalid, and they slapped her with a bill for nearly $20,000.
“I would hate for anyone else to go through this,” said Hamper, 38, who decided to share her story as a tale of caution during tax season.
For years, Hamper had deducted the cost of the clothing she wore on air and for business functions, as well as other expenses she incurred while working as an anchor for WCMH-TV (Channel 4) and WBNS-TV (Channel 10) in Columbus.
Other TV anchors told her they did it, and professionals who prepared her taxes over the years told her it was fine. ...
Hamper thought her deductions were legitimate, so she took the case to U.S. Tax Court, where she explained the deductions to a judge last fall. The judge ruled against her in late February and ordered her to pay $16,492 in back taxes, plus a penalty of $3,298.
“The general rule is that, where business clothes are suitable for general wear, a deduction for them is not allowable,” the judge wrote. Most professionals, the decision said, “typically do not wear their business clothes for private or personal wear,” yet they cannot deduct the cost of those clothes.
The judge also ruled that most other items Hamper used as deductions were personal, not business, expenses. They included contact lenses that helped her read the teleprompter, makeup, haircuts, manicures, teeth whitening and subscriptions to magazines and newspapers.
The decision doesn’t surprise Donald B. Tobin, associate dean of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Tobin teaches a class on federal income-tax law and uses the case of a saleswoman at a high-end clothing store as an example. In that case, the saleswoman argued that she had to wear clothing from the store while she worked, but that she never would have worn it otherwise, so she deducted the cost as a business expense. The IRS disallowed the deduction. “It only cares about whether you can use it, not if you actually do use it,” Tobin said. ...
She’s not ... happy about a New York Daily News story about the tax-court decision in her case. The story, which traveled around the world, listed thong underwear among the items she deducted.