Groundhog Day and Income tax
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Tucked inside the Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, a magical burrow awaits. Its resident, respected by many as the nation’s leading voice in weather prediction, readies himself for the spotlight. At 7:25 a.m., February 2, a tuxedoed man will reach into the dwelling, pull the furry meteorologist out by the scruff, and place him in front of dozens of news cameras.
Punxsutawney Phil may be a groundhog, but he still needs to look his best. Fortunately, many groundhog costs accrued up to this moment are tax deductible.
Remember: Before you try to deduct your pet’s expenses, know that these write-offs don’t apply to ordinary animals. They are reserved for celebrities and other highly-specific types of working pets.
Phil’s stunt doubles earned taxable paychecks
Phil rose to the height of his fame when the Harold Ramis film, Groundhog Day, released in 1993. It starred Bill Murray as an off-course weatherman trapped in a time loop — forced to relive Groundhog Day until cracking life’s code for an honorable existence. Oddly though, Phil doesn’t play himself in the movie, so he never got a paycheck. Instead, the role was tackled by a cast of trained, look-alike groundhogs.
Staying camera-ready is tax deductible
The groundhogs that played Phil, however, did earn money for their efforts. Since their owners paid taxes on that income, they could have claimed costs associated with feeding, grooming, boarding, and general care — if they chose to itemize.
Training costs can be written off
A groundhog named Scooter bit Murray several times while on set. After an especially rough chomp, production was actually paused so Murray could receive medical treatment. The additional training Scooter required to stop snacking on Murray meant a business write-off for Scooter’s owner. And fewer trips to the medical tent.
Punxsutawney Phil’s tax history is unknown
Phil is both a local celebrity and a beacon of tourism, but it’s unclear if he directly profits from his contributions. That, along with his filing status, is a secret he’s kept for more than 100 years.
Here’s what we do know:
- Nearly 40,000 people clamor to the tiny town to watch his annual prediction.
- His likeness is seen throughout Punxsutawney, iconized on 32 different statues.
- His toothy grin punctuates every welcome sign, along with collectible ornaments, mugs, and trinkets galore.
- He lives rent-free at the local library.
- He has handlers, a group of men in top hats known as the Groundhog Club Inner Circle, who are dedicated to protecting Phil’s magical legacy and good health.
If Phil is owned by the city, then his efforts are not subject to taxation — and therefore wouldn’t be open to the same business deductions as his Hollywood groundhog counterparts. If he’s owned by an individual, then Phil can write off pretty much everything except his shadow.
One thing is certain: If Phil ever does need help filing a return, TaxAct will be there to walk him through every deduction he’s owed. Even the surprising ones.