Attorney-at-Law

THE TELETUBBY’S TALE

In Uncategorized on 07/29/2021 at 17:52

I’m sure readers have awaited as eagerly as I some Tax Court learning about unreimbursed employee business deductions in the Age of Teletubby, those employees working remotely, especially from home. And while the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 put paid to the 2% Misc from and including 1/1/2018, there remain back years in the pipeline. Besides, who knows? Congress might actually deal with this some day (don’t bet large bucks).

In this Age of COVID, I saw some performing artists do split-screen Hollywood Squares type television performances from home. The adjustment remains for them and for certain disabled persons and fee-based-compensated gov’t workers locked out of their offices. So unreimbursed employee expenses isn’t entirely a dead letter.

So CSTJ Lewis (“Now Where Have I Heard That Name Before?”) Carluzzo has some small-claimer don’t-quote-me sidelights for Leila Saedian,  2021 T.C. Sum. Op. 23, filed 7/29/21.

Leila was an account exec with Coca Cola in CA. She had no office, and her terms of employment required her and her fellow Coke teletubbies to have “a remote office location where they can work safely without interruption, distraction, or undo (sic) risk of injury to self or third parties, and with reliable phone and internet access.” 2021 T. C. Sum. Op. 23, at p. 3, footnote 4.

Leila had to travel to customers, but Coke had a reimbursement policy that covered most expenses, so Leila’s car, food, and office supplies deductions are disallowed.

Leila does get home office, as she turned one of the two bedrooms in her 1288 sq. ft. flat into an office. But how she got her numbers baffles CSTJ Lew.

“According to petitioner, 33% of her apartment was used as her office. We are at a loss with respect to how petitioner arrived at that percentage. She was unsure of the dimensions of the bedroom used as her office but roughly estimated it to be 300 square feet. Simple math reduces the percentage to 23%, and from the photographs submitted into evidence, we suspect that the office/bedroom might have been smaller than that.

“All things considered, we estimate and find that petitioner used 20% of the apartment for her home office.” 2021 T. C. Sum. Op. 23, at p. 9 (footnote omitted).

CSTJ Lew allows Leila the 20% of rent, but notes she didn’t claim anything for renters’ insurance.  Does renters’ insurance cover a commercial use like a home office? Mine doesn’t, except for minor, occasional.

Coke required Leila to maintain her own internet and cellphone at her own expense, so she does get her cellphone and internet, although CSTJ Lew revives a 1913 comic monologue to do a Cohan on the telephone (sorry, guys).

“Petitioner’s records substantiate that the internet and cell phone expenses have been paid. Petitioner testified that her internet was used 85-90% for business purposes, but she did not distinguish between business and personal use with respect to her cell phone. We consider it reasonable that 75% of petitioner’s internet and cell phone use was related to her employment with Coca-Cola, and therefore she is entitled to a $1,728.75 deduction for internet and cell phone expenses.” 2021 T. C. Sum. Op. 23, at pp. 10-11. (Citations omitted).

Leila loses her medicals (less than 10% AGI) and charitables (no receipts). IRS does concede the chops.

I note that, although only $7K is at issue, Leila managed to secure the assistance of a “prestigious law firm” in the Brentwood Wilshire area. Well played, Mr. C.

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