Expenses Incurred

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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Do poetry books count as a tax write-off? — Samuel

Definitely. If you can write off a mortgage, you can write off poetry books, many of which can get quite expensive, especially if you’re buying hardcover editions. Poetry books are an indication of two things that the IRS typically recognizes as exemptions, namely scholarship and investment potential, and I’m sure you could convincingly argue that poetry books are a charitable contribution to some poets, who are so poor they are reading this column in their underwear on a top-floor studio apartment with no air conditioning. Be very meticulous in your documentation, though — an estimate just won’t fly, because at least in my experience, I tend to overestimate the monetary value of poetry books after I’ve read them (this is just one example out of many, many poetry books, but I just read Matthea Harvey’s Modern Life and my mind was blown away! I went to exciting new places and the whole experience only cost me about 14 bucks!) and I also tend to borrow books from my friends and I keep them for so long that, after a while, I think they’re mine, but they’re really not (and when my friend says, “Can I have back my poetry book?” I say, “What? This is my poetry book!” and then we get in a brawl that almost turns vicious and nasty, but we’re poets so we end up hugging, drinking wine, and discussing the way the landscape is inextricably linked to our sex organ). So, save your receipts and stick it to the Man!

OK, wait, I know it’s totally lame just to change my mind all of the sudden, but I made the mistake of telling my dad about your query and my response (and he speaks Legalese). He said I could be held liable, so, I’m going to tell you not to do it (but I did think it was a nice idea). I know — everybody is trying to stretch a dollar these days, but I think you’ll get in trouble if you try to claim poetry books on your returns. And then you’ll get me in trouble because I initially told you to do it and the IRS is not noted for its recognition of irony. DO NOT DO IT, SAM. • 8 September 2009

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.

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