Truth: We Should Be Able To Write Off Coffee On Our Taxes

I'm not drinking this stuff to unwind, and the IRS should acknowledge that.
Truth: We Should Be Able To Write Off Coffee On Our Taxes

It’s that fateful time of year again. We approach April 15, and the government decrees on high that we try to remember as much of our math education as we can and use it to figure out how much money we owe them. When infrastructure descends on our assets like a starved vampire, ripping the throats of our checking accounts asunder in order to feast on the delicious papery green viscera inside. The time, when, as a self-employed contractor, I must kneel, arms outstretched, proffering approximately 30 percent of my year’s income to the government to be put towards military technology that will be decommissioned in 5 years and left in the hands of a rural police department in 10.

Soldiers and a helicopter
Enjoy that writing money, fellas!

But I’m not here in the name of anarchy, or worse, libertarianism. I’m here with a simple, sensical request. One that plays by the government’s rules, works within their systems. One of the only sources of respite in this vacuuming of assets. One of the only small areas where we get to tell the IRS to back off, that this pile of money is off limits, is in the form of the tax write-off. Tax write-offs are a valuable, if widely misunderstood facet of the tax filing process. In fact, most people making what I would call a “sane” amount of money usually fall into either the camp of writing off nothing or vastly overestimating what qualifies, and committing tax fraud that would surely get them audited if the IRS was aware of their existence. A Lyft driver once offered me some “tax tips,” and proceeded to outline a series of fraudulent write-offs so extensive it would trigger a salivary response in most CFOs.

But, thanks to tax lawyers in my family, and extensive (mostly unrequested) conversations regarding taxes with them, I do have a fairly solid layman’s grasp on the idea of the business write-off. The parameters, as I understand them, are that whatever is to be written off is to be used for the sole purpose of work and/or business. This applies to everything from computer purchases to home office rent. Even though I sincerely believe that I need a high-powered gaming PC in order to render Google Docs at their highest efficiency.

From here, I have a proposal: I should be able to write off the purchase of every single cup of coffee I drink during the year. In my eyes, coffee meets every requirement for a business write-off. It directly affects my work and the quality thereof, as anyone who’s ever been on a morning conference call with me can attest. It’s used exclusively during work hours, for most people. No one’s clocking out at 6 pm and settling onto their couch with a cold brew so that the room is vibrating while they watch Law & Order reruns.

Laptop, notebook, and cup of coffee
Equally important as the pen and laptop.

Coffee is an essential part of my business, because it allows my brain to effectively function during the hours society has designated as “business hours,” which is probably a remnant of a time before electric lighting. Without a coffee I doubt I could read this article, much less write it, before 10 am.

If we need more proof, I only have to imagine my life without a day job, something that doesn’t even really need to be imagined for most of us thanks to a recent pandemic. Waking up at 11 AM to play Magic the Gathering or Escape from Tarkov required no coffee. I wasn’t tired because I had slept for 10 hours. Now, mileage may vary on your natural circadian rhythms, and whether you are more or less clinically depressed than I am, but I rarely found myself staring at a slow brown drip through my one open eye when I was unemployed. To me, this is evidence of its intrinsic connection to my professional life.

Now that the case of qualification has been made, let’s look at the possible benefit. Though each cup may seem inexpensive by itself, it’s easy to find financial experts and plenty of articles telling you that not only is it a colossal yearly loss, but the reason millennials aren’t homeowners, parents, or vintage car collectors. 

I make my own coffee at home, but that’s more a product of the sunlight hurting my delicate writer’s skin and being unable to drag myself to the coffeeshop on my atrophied creative legs than any financial acumen. I also drink my coffee black, because I believe it helps me truly feel the crushing weight of consciousness. But if I preferred lattes or more energy-intensive coffees, it would surely be a much more expensive habit.

Let’s do as much math as my BFA in Studio Art will allow. First, let’s take the coffee price directly from the business experts deriding millennial’s wanton coffee consumption. Suze Orman says $5 a cup, Kevin O’ Leary says $4, let’s split the difference for $4.50 per coffee. I drink 2 cups a day, which I think is average, if not below average for those people toting a cold brew the size of a movie theater soda.

So at two $4.50 coffees a day, we get $9 a day. 5 days a week, for $45 a week. 52 weeks in a year, we’re looking at $2340 a year. A significant chunk of change, much more if you’re one of the many who clocks more than 2 cups a day. And, I posit, a business expense.

These beans are for business. It’s time the IRS agrees.

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