Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Supertramp – "Goodbye Stranger" (1979)

Goodbye Mary
Goodbye Jane
Will we ever
Meet again?

April 15 is just weeks away.  Have you started work on your income tax return yet?

A couple of days ago, I was researching whether I could still claim my youngest son as a dependent on my return.  It runs out that I can, which is good news.  (We’re talking a $4050 tax deduction, boys and girls.  That ain’t hay.)

There are five factors that must be considered in deciding whether you can count your child as a dependent and take a  deduction.  One of them is residency – the child must have lived with you for more than half the year to be considered a dependent.  

There are a number of exceptions to that requirement – for example, if the child’s parents are divorced or separated, the parents can agree which of them gets the deduction even if the child doesn’t live with that parent more than half of the year.

Another exception relates to children who are born during the year the tax return covers.  For example, my daughter gave birth to my third grandson on December 30 of last year.  Obviously, that child didn’t live with my daughter and her husband for more than half the year.  But the rule is that they can count him as a dependent and take a deduction because their home was the child’s home more than half the time he was alive in 2017.

The same principle applies when a child dies during the year.  A child who dies in January of a certain year, for example, is a dependent in that year for tax purposes if he or she lived with his or her parents for more than half the time he or she was alive during that year.

According to the IRS, you may be able to claim an exemption for a child born alive during the year, “even if the child lived only for a moment.”  But you can't claim an exemption for a stillborn child. 

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The IRS thinks of everything.  The rules on deductions for dependent children cover one situation that I bet you’ve never thought about: whether kidnapped children qualify for a dependency deduction.

IRS Publication 501 says that you usually get a deduction for a kidnapped child – assuming that the child hasn’t been kidnapped by someone who is a member of your family or the child's family.  (It’s not unheard of for a parent who has lost a custody battle to take his or child and skedaddle.  In such a case, the custodial parent can’t take a deduction.  Presumably, the parent who took the child can take a deduction, although it may be the smartest strategy legally to do so.)

IRS Publication 501
You can continue to take that deduction for as long as the child remains kidnapped – with two exceptions.  

You can take the deduction up until the year when the child turns 18, but no longer.  You also lose the deduction in “[t]he year there is a determination that the child is dead.”

I’m guessing that they may be some procedure for declaring a kidnapped child who is never returned legally dead after so many years.  But I’m not going to research the question any further – I’ve been blessed with three grandsons in the last 20 months, and I’d like to keep all thoughts relating to the kidnapping or death of children out of my mind.

*     *     *     *     *

There was a time when you couldn’t take a deduction for a kidnapped child.  

Apparently the question never came up until 2000, when the IRS was asked by the family of a kidnapped child if they could take the dependency exemption.  The family had continued to maintain the child’s room and had spent a lot of money searching for the child.  But the IRS told the family that they could not claim the deduction after the year in which the child was kidnapped.

That’s not a shock to anyone who knows anything about the IRS.  What is shocking is that Congress did the right thing and amended the federal tax code to allow that family and other kidnapping victims to take deductions.

Lest you think that I’m going soft on Congress, I will point out that it took them until 2004 to amend the law.  (I can’t imagine why it took them four years to overturn the IRS.  Four days should have been enough time.)

*     *     *     *     *

As I noted in the last 2 or 3 lines, the 2017 Tonya Harding biopic, I, Tonya, has a fabulous soundtrack.  

One of the songs on that soundtrack is “Goodbye Stranger,” which was released in 1979 on Supertramp’s sixth and most successful studio album, Breakfast in America: 

Breakfast in America held down the #1 spot on the Billboard “Pop Albums Chart” for six weeks, and also hit #1 in a number of other countries, including France – where it is still one of the five best-selling albums of all time.

“Goodbye Stranger” was one of three top 20 singles from Breakfast in America, despite lyrics like these:

Now some they do, and some they don’t
And some you just can't tell
And some they will, and some they won’t
With some it’s just as well

Here’s “Goodbye Stranger”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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