Case of the Week – If you Bowl for a Living You Better Win or Take Lessons on Improving Your Game!

In Phillips v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2013-215, the Tax Court rejected a taxpayer’s attempt to deduct expenses relating to bowling tournaments. The court noted that, although the taxpayer did win bowling tournaments in 2000 and 2003, by 2008 he had not won a tournament in three years and, despite this long losing streak, the taxpayer had done nothing to change his approach to the game. The fact that the taxpayer did not hire a coach, conduct additional research, or attempt to change his technique indicated to the court that he did not carry on his bowling activities in a businesslike manner. To make matters worse the taxpayer in his testimony could not identify a single tournament in which he had participated in 2008. Does this case mean that if you try hard and lose you can deduct your expenses, but if you lose and don’t really seem to try hard, you cannot deduct your expenses. Perhaps the old phrase “an A for effort applies.” (If you don’t know it, the building pictured is the IRS Headquarters in Washinington)

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