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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

1040 Good Buddy: Taxes, Wine & Those Pesky Deductions

We all know the old saying that nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes. While certainly this is true a good wine can somewhat ward off death, well, maybe not exactly but at the very least makes taxes bearable. I’m not a CPA, so any deductions listed here should be run by your accountant for approval. Time to pair a wine with a given tax deduction.

Lifetime Learning
Our convoluted tax code offers a number of deductions geared toward college students, but that doesn’t mean those of you who have already graduated can’t get a break too. The Lifetime Learning credit can provide up to $2,000 per year, taking off 20% of the first $10,000 you spend for education after high school, all in an effort to give you new or better job skills. This phases out at higher income levels, but it also doesn’t discriminate based on your age – and we should all keep learning! Any Pinot Noir fanatic will tell you it’s a lifetime grape - a wine that educates you about subtly, beauty, nuances and ethereal qualities. The Sonoma Loeb 2014 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir is classic Russian River Valley Pinot with cranberry, pomegranate, strawberry, huckleberry and back note of cola and black cherry, rich yet calm with plenty of acidity RRV is known for. Spending time with this wine is an education in itself. ($40,

Charitable Giving
You can deduct money or goods given to charitable organizations, which makes giving more fun! Out-of-pocket expenses for charitable work also qualify. So, if you make brownies for a charity fundraiser for example, you might be able to deduct the cost of the ingredients you used to bake them. Always save receipts or itemize the costs in case of an audit. Donations to your local library or the value of goods given to a charity are also considered viable. Of course it helps to be charitable with yourself too, so I think the Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour will give back to you. This a brut rose - a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with delicate hints of strawberry, pomegranate, apricot, peach and lime, a whisper of sweet honeysuckle and with fine pinpoint bubbles. It’s a gift that will keep giving. ($37,

Health Insurance Premiums
Medical expenses can easily kill your budget. Aside from the health benefits of wine (no, you probably can’t write off your expensive Burgundy) for most taxpayers, medical expenses have to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income to be deducted. However, if you’re self-employed and responsible for your own health insurance coverage (like yours truly), you can deduct 100% of your premium cost. That gets taken off your adjusted gross income rather than as an itemized deduction. Got it? The Magsitrate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (NV) from Sonoma offers an inexpensive, cash-friendly wine, and it’s red so you’re keeping healthy, right? There is muted blackberry, blueberry, resin, dusty cedar, this offers decidedly middle of the road tannins that subdue any overt fruit along with a mild acidity and richness that’s tame and ready to drink now. And given it’s tax time, you’ll want to drink it now. ($17,

Unusual Business Expenses
Don’t overlook deductions that seem odd. As a wine writer I push the boundaries of what can be deducted related to wine, all within the parameters of the law, of course. If something is used to benefit your business and you can document the reasons for it, you probably can deduct it from your business income as long as it is a viable part of doing business. I’m able to deduct winery tasting room fees for example because my primary income is from wine writing. Which gets us to the 2014 Patz & Hall Hudson Vineyard-Carneros Chardonnay. I’m not saying you can deduct this lovely wine, but it is unusual in that this straddles the line of Chardonnays out there, not too oaky, not to stainless. Using native yeasts and malo-lactic fermentation in barrel this does not push oak on you, but gives up green apple, lemon lime curd, honey, pineapple and a back note of sweet biscuit and almond. So go ahead, think creatively about your deductions while you sip this. ($55,

Job Searching
If you were looking for a job in 2015, you may be able to deduct costs related to your job search – even if you didn’t get a job – because at least you tried! Job search expenses such as preparing and sending résumés (expenses and mailing, if you actually use snail mail), fees for head hunters or temp agencies and even travel related to the job search can be included. But searching for a job is tough so you need a wine that will support the long view. The J Lohr 2012 Cuvee St. E is a St. Emilion homage wine made in Paso Robles crafted from Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cab Sauvignon and Malbec. It offers robust black cherry, huckleberry, blueberry and boysenberry with a sharp acidity and a resin note, a hint of earthen vegetable and minerality. The dominate Cabernet Franc holds up against the oak and makes a play for a new world cuvee – bold yet restrained. This is how to reward yourself after a long day hitting the pavement. ($50,

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