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Born on the 4th of July & that date's other tax connections

If you don't have to work on this post-July 4th Friday, then you're probably spending the day recovering from your patriotic and fireworks-laden celebrations.

Some folks also are resting up from their birthday partying.

Yep, I'm talking about those folks born on the Fourth of July.

Famous 4th birthday celebrants: Several celebrities share this early July birth date. People magazine published a slide show and those from that presentation that caught my eye include:

Tax ties to July 4th: We all know that taxes helped prompt the battle for U.S. independence.

Taxes also are why a couple of television celebrities on the July 4th birthday list also caught my eye. These two have tax connections of their own.

Geraldo Rivera turned 76 this July 4th. The current Fox News employee also is known by some of us older viewers as the television host who brought us the live opening of Al Capone's mysterious and empty vault.

As everyone knows, Capone didn't end up in Alcatraz for any of his alleged violent criminal acts. The Internal Revenue Service helped Eliot Ness and his Untouchables take down Scarface. He was convicted in 1931 of failure to pay federal taxes on his illegally gotten gains.

Then there's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino. The Jersey Shore star spent his 37th birthday yesterday in jail, where he's serving time for tax evasion.

To help make Mike's behind bars birthday, which fell in the seventh of his eight-month tax sentence, a bit better, his family, friends and reality TV show colleagues sent him birthday wishes, which they also shared with us all via social media.

Yankee Doodle tax break: Finally, a near July 4 birthday miss with, if you'll bear with me, a tax tie.

Academy Award nominated actor and Mission Impossible movie franchise star Tom Cruise turned 57 on July 3. Cruise was born on July 3, but his first Oscar nod was for his starring role in the 1989 film Born on the Fourth.

That movie's title comes from the lyrics of a popular mid-20th century song, The Yankee Doodle Boy:

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam's.
Born on the Fourth of July. 

The song was a showcase for star James Cagney in the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Jimmy Cagney as Yankee Doodle Dandy YouTube screenshot
James Cagney, before he became the prototypical movie gangster, was as song-and-dance man. He showed off those talents in "Yankee Doodle Dandy," the biopic of a man who not only gave us great musicals, but also an Internal Revenue Code rule about deducting business expenses. (Click image to watch the YouTube video)

And now — thanks for your patience — the tax connection.

Cohan Rule for tax deductions: The song's composer, George M. Cohan, fought a tax deduction battle with the IRS that gave us what is known as the Cohan Rule.

Basically, as discussed in my earlier post on the landmark tax documentation issue, the Cohan Rule for decades has been a fallback for folks who want to deduct travel and business expenses for which they don't have complete records.

The rule got attention last year when a U.S. Tax Court case refused a filer's use of the Cohan Rule in, yes (and ironically), for estimated amounts the taxpayer tried to claim as travel deductions.

The Cohan Rule wasn't tossed out, but this filer wasn't allowed to use it in his particular case. You can read about the tax judge's reasoning in Accounting Web's story on TC Summary Opinion 2018-21.

The lesson for all of us here and on every day of the tax year  is that while the Cohan Rule may be a last resort when it comes to tax break claims, it's always better to keep as complete as possible tax records, both for business and personal filings.

Finally and FYI, despite his song, Cohan, like Cruise, was born on July 3.

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