Seinfeld on Startups: The Russian Durbin and the Tax Man

Seinfeld on Startups: The Russian Durbin and the Tax Man

Can I write this off?  Yes, it’s that time of year kids, when we are all trying to track down receipts and figure out how to justify our South By Southwest tickets as “entertaining clients”.  So with Uncle Sam watching over our collective shoulders, who better to look to than Elaine Benes for advice on keeping the tax man at bay.

In The Roaster – Elaine has found her way to the top perch at J Peterman, the fashion empire of the catalog world.  At the same time Kenny Roger’s Chicken has opened up across the street from Kramer.  Everyone (and I mean everyone here, who hasn’t seen this episode, right?) remembers this one as the Jerry-Kramer apartment switch and Kramer and Newman’s addiction to Kenny’s fried chicken – apparently the man can cook and sing (Island’s In the Stream – don’t play it off like you don’t sing along to that one) 

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, taxes.  So Elaine has decided that essentially everything can become a business expense.  Lunch with friends, cookware, down comforters, and (Lucky for George) that includes Russian sable hats.

The accounting department (Mr. Ipswithch) starts to see the bills come through and that’s when the fun starts.   A little dialogue:

MAN: Good day Ms. Benes. It’s Roger Ipswitch.

ELAINE: Oh hey! How things doing in accounting?

ROGER: Ms. Benes, I notice you’ve been charging quite a bit of merchandise on the Peterman account.

(Jerry looks at his shirt)

ELAINE: Well, I am the President.

ROGER: Yes, and we’re all very impressed. Never the less, the expense account is for business purposes only.

ELAINE: Well, well isn’t the president allowed to do anything that they want?

ROGER: No. I’ll be in your office first thing tomorrow. Good day.

Elaine is quickly brought up to speed on the definition of a business expense and the realization that furry hats for her friends don’t quite make the cut.

I’m 4 paragraphs in so I better wrap this drivel up before I completely lose you.   I’m not a CPA and I don’t pretend to be one on TV either.  But I do know that the ability to write something off as a business expense is directly correlated to its actual justification as a business expense.  So as you are rummaging through your purse, car, or shoebox – or other sophisticated organizational schemes you may use to keep your receipts – think before you deduct.

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Dan Beenken is Director of the UNI Small Business Development Center

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