In Uncategorized on 12/05/2019 at 16:21

No, I’m not ordering two shots of a joint venture between The Lairds of Kilmarnock and Lem Motlow’s outfit; although that would be a fascinating whiskey.

This is the story of Earl A. Skarky, Docket No. 1727-18*, filed 12/5/19, an off-the-bencher from ex-Ch J Michael B (“Iron Mike”) Thornton. It’s yet another horse tale, albeit not a hobby horse. Still and all, to my good friend and colleague Peter Reilly, CPA, gib a’ kook, as Grandma would say.

Earl was a mandatorily-retired heavy-hitter in an OK law firm. Earl moved to Lexington, KY, and bought the farm. Not in that sense, of course. He bought a 55-acre farm and started acquiring and disposing of various horses, claiming he wanted to start a horse-breeding venture.

Alas, “…petitioner had acquired 13 horses from the Humane Society. He did not intend to sell these horses, and [immediately before year at issue] he had disposed of all but one of these horses and had acquired two Tennessee  Walkers. At that time he also had five horses that had been retired from his wife’s therapy business in Washington State. Of these five horses only one was a potential breeder but because of health issues it had to be gelded.” Transcript, at pp. 4-5.

Tennessee Walker is apparently some breed of horse that never winds up in the daily double, so I can’t tell you any more about them. Earl did buy two mares in foal and started training their offspring, but they hadn’t done anything in the year at issue except get bridle-trained by a trainer Earl hired. Earl did buy a stallion (type unspecified) that year. In subsequent years, Earl bought some retired police horses (all gelded) and two Clydesdales.

Earl did claim a $1.4 million farm loss for the year at issue, based on $3250 of income from boarding a couple horses (hi, Judge Holmes), and a bunch of depreciation, Section 179 quick write-offs, and his commuting expenses from Lexington to OK to do some work at his old firm.

Earl had a residence in OK, showed up once a month for a week there to service his old client, and earned his real money there. Hence his tax home is OK, not KY, so no deduction for travel.

Earl’s trial testimony obviates the need for ex-Ch J Iron Mike to trudge through the “goofy regulation,” 1.183-2(b).

“As of [year at issue] petitioner had not yet sold any horses from his breeding activity. In fact, as of [year at issue] petitioner was still uncertain what type of horses would be best to breed and was still investigating different possibilities. As of the time of trial, petitioner has not entered into any breeding agreements and has not received any fees for breeding horses. Petitioner testified that he hoped his horse-breeding activity would become operational by 2020.” Transcript, at p. 5.

Clearly Earl is neither a trial lawyer nor a tax lawyer, or he might have deduced that that testimony sank him without trace. Note that the trial took place five (count ‘em, five) years after the year at issue.

Ex-Ch J Iron Mike don’t need no factors. This isn’t a hobby loss, this is a start-up.

“Until the activity is functioning as a going concern and performing the activities for which it was organized, expenses related to that activity, including depreciation expenses, are not ‘ordinary and necessary’ expenses’ currently deductible under section 162 (nor are they deductible under section 212) but rather are ‘start-up’ or ‘pre-opening’ expenses. See Hardy v. Commissioner, 93 T.C. 684, 687-688 (1989); Piggly Wiggly Southern, Inc. v. Commissioner, 84 T.C. 739, 745-746 (1985) (citing Richmond Television Corp. v. United States, 345 F.2d 901 (4th Cir. 1965), aff’d, 803 F.2d 1572 (11th Cir. 1986)). ‘Start-up expenditures’–i.e., expenses incurred ‘before the day on which the active trade or business begins,’ sec. 195(c) (1) (A) (iii)–may be deducted only over time under section 195. The costs of starting up a new trade or business or a new income-producing activity are inherently capital because they are expenses of creating or acquiring a capital asset. See Johnsen v. Commissioner, 794 F.2d 1157, 1162 (6th Cir. 1986), rev’g, 83 T.C. 103 (1984).” Transcript, at pp. 10-11.

Whatever their success at breeding, training, buying or selling, these horsey types provide great blogfodder.

*Earl Skarky 1727-18 12 5 19


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