Sheltered Islander: Tax Day—A Look Back

Count your deductions on tax day!
Yay tax day! Photo: Mackon/iStock/Thinkstock

“Hi, Sondra, I’m Betty. I’ll be training you to do the Schedule SI, Shelter Island, tax returns.”

“Thanks, I’ve never seen such strange deductions. Everybody’s claiming thousands for ferry expenses. They can’t all be leaving the island for work every day.”

“‘Go off-Island.’ They don’t leave the Island, they ‘go off-Island,’ and they come ‘on-Island’ when they return. They have their own patois, you’ll catch on. Now, Sondra, the whole ferry ticket thing is tricky. Sometimes I think they have a black market that sells punched tickets that serve as receipts. Look, this salon worker is claiming $2,400 in ferry expenses alone. It’s viable, daily round-trip with resident discount five days a week times 50 weeks a year.”

“Obviously a padded expense.”

“You’d think, but no. I spoke with her, Kitty Snertwheedle, last year. She makes daily runs for salon supplies….”

“….which she could get on Shelter Island…..right, Betty?”

“Actually no. There’s no big stores there. The pharmacy has a nice beauty supply section, but no specific salon items. Residents have to go off-Island for all nonessentials. But…why send a resident off-Island daily when one of the salon’s workers, Honey Funnywell, lives in Sag Harbor and can bring supplies in with her? Honey claims $3,750 a year, about right for a non-resident, for ferry costs as travel expense to and from work.”

“I guess Honey can’t use her tickets to do double duty for travel and errands. But—she could bring supplies just the same and someone else could say they ran the errands. But, Betty, they’d still need punched tickets—unless they get them from other people.”

“That’s right, Sondra, a punched ticket tells no tales. I’m pushing for retina scans to buy tickets, but so far, well, let’s say, the eyes still have it. Now, look at this, Sondra, under tax credits for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness…”

“Boats? Oh, no way, these people can’t deduct boats, how does that fit into Emergency Preparedness?”

“We call it the Gilligan’s Island loophole. You live on an island, the ferries at each end hold 20 cars at a time. If Al Qaeda invades tomorrow, how are you getting off the rock? You’d better have a boat. They can deduct the boat, the dock rent, mooring materials, food, everything related to escape and survival support. These people aren’t just clever, they’re ‘I’m a Kardashian, I’m stinking rich, I have no talent, and the world doesn’t care’ clever. Here’s another beauty. In the Environmental Protection section—Clam Bed Maintenance and Relocation.”

“Relocation to where—their kitchens?”

“Ever wonder why some salt water near the shore is clear and some is cloudy and silty all the time? Mollusks, clams, oysters, scallops, they’re all filter feeders. They are the reason you can see baby crabs and seahorses in shallow water. They’re as essential as bees to the environment. So, many Islanders relocate a portion of a clam bed to silty spots around the Island. For this, they need trucks. So they can deduct their truck.”

“And the melted butter deductions—what’s that for?”

“We were told that they pour melted butter on the clams in transport so that they slide over each other without cracking shells. The butter is organic and no clam is harmed en route to its new bed.”

“Still sounds suspicious, Betty. But they can’t justify deducting hunting rifles to ‘guard the clams.’ That’s just way too much reach.”

“Ironically, Sondra, the rifles to guard clams may be the most legitimate expense of all. The Island is plagued with giant seagulls, with 10’ wingspans. They live in huge nests made of entire tree branches. They can carry off animals up to 12 pounds. Chihuahuas go missing all the time. It’s a strange place to live. They say you love it, or learn to, or hate it, or try to leave, or leave but come back anyway….”

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