Eyeing the tax calendar
The slings and arrows
of outrageous taxes

Icky online offerings

Larry_summers_roll OK people. You really need to get a grip on what you're selling on eBay.

Same goes for buyers. If you, and you know who you are, weren't paying for this crap, then the sellers would stop.

The latest: Larry Summers' half-eaten dinner roll. According to the Harvard Crimson (hat tip to TaxProf), the soon-to-be-ex university president ate half the roll on March 14 during a faculty meal with some undergraduates. One of the attending students got to the ort before the busboys and promptly listed it with the online auctioneer.

Now here comes the icky part.

The listing read: “You have a chance to own a roll that has touched the mouth of one of the most influential and compelling figures in America today. I bet it even has his saliva on it.”

Spit as a selling point. Yuk!

OK, one potential bidder was able to spin that feature a bit: “Do you think Larry’s DNA is on the bread roll? If I win this auction, can I use saliva DNA to clone Larry?”

But, still, we're in junior high territory here, folks.

Many years ago when I was in Washington, D.C., I got the chance to attend a few luncheons and dinners at which Summers, then U.S. Treasury secretary, was a guest. I never actually sat at his table, but if only I had known then the potential of leftovers, I could have at least walked past his table and filled up a doggy bag.

On second thought, it probably wouldn't have been worth the space it took up in my refrigerator. Summers' roll sold for just $12.50. Wonder if that covered the eBay listing cost?

Shatners_kidney_stone_1_3 An even ickier, but more lucrative, Internet transaction involved actor William Shatner's kidney stone, purchased by the online casino GoldenPalace.com. Capt. James T. Kirk's alter ego got $25,000 for the stone and associated medical paraphernalia.

Shatner donated the money to Habitat for Humanity, at least turning the situation into a generous gesture, not to mention a nice tax break for himself. I just bet he wished he could have had the stone beamed out!

Atypical charitable gifts: Shatner's roundabout charitable gift brings to mind other donations that could produce tax breaks without requiring either surgery or food filching.

Many charitable organizations accept things beyond the usual checks, household goods and even old autos. It's too late to donate and count it toward your 2005 taxes due in a few weeks, but maybe these options will remind you of some charitable act from last year that you can count. At least you can start planning your 2006 charitable deductions strategy now.

You cannot deduct the value of the time you spent volunteering at your favorite charity's office. But if you bought office supplies for the group and weren't repaid, then the costs of those goods does count.

So does the cost of buying and maintaining a uniform to do your charity work as long as it's required by the organization and isn't suitable for everyday wear (think hospital Candy Striper).

And don't forget to tabulate the travel to and from your volunteer gig. You can write off the actual oil and gas costs or take the standard deduction of 14 cents per mile.

If your driving was for Katrina assistance last year, you can write it off on your 2005 return at 29 cents per each mile driven for the cause between Aug. 25 and Aug. 31; Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 mileage is worth 34 cents a mile. If you're still doing Katrina relief work this year, keep track because that will get you a 32 cents per mile deduction. Remember, this higher rate is for Katrina-related charitable travel only.

Do you have stock that no longer fits your investment strategy? If it's increased in value and you sell, you'll owe taxes on it. But you can give the stock directly to a charitable group, avoid the capital gains tax and deduct the value of the asset.

Heck, you can even deduct a donation to help reduce the national debt. Hey, at more than $4 trillion -- $4,849,969,667,798.37 to be precise as of 5:30 p.m. CST on March 22, 2006 -- Uncle Sam will take all the help he can get.

Since Oct. 1, 2005, the start of the current fiscal year, $1,029,883.97 has been contributed. You can keep tabs on the patriotic giving drive here.

And get more details on unusual charitable donations in this Bankrate tax tip.


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It is a free world... people sell what they want... The issue is the buyers!!! Why they want to buy them!!!???

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