It takes a lot of trees to produce Austin, Texas-based independent publisher Greenleaf Book Group’s list of titles. So founder Clint Greenleaf’s favorite deduction is the money that goes to replace what they use. He’s started a nonprofit, Tree Neutral, that allows companies and individuals to calculate how many tons of paper they use and the corresponding number of trees cut down. Participants can then donate to an organization that plants trees. “So we’re tree-neutral, at least,” Greenleaf says. “It’s our way to give back.”
Michelle Madhok frequently appears on television representing her Web-based fashion company, New York-based White Cat Media--so she has to look good. When Madhok began regularly scheduled guest spots, her grooming became a deductible expense. "Getting my hair done, cut, color, nails, facial--I can deduct my grooming because I'm the face of my company,” she says. “I realized early on that if I wasn't fixed up, I would look like a wreck next to the talent."
Community involvement goes right to the heart of New York City’s Brooklyn Industries: The year the first store opened, founders Lexy Funk and Vahap Avsar joined a local campaign against a power plant project that was proposed for the neighborhood. Today, the company often works with community organizations to design products for sale in Brooklyn Industries’ 11 stores. A portion of the profit from each sale is typically donated to the group. "It goes back to the base of who we are, being engaged with the community, but always through creativity and through a project," says Funk.
For CEO Charles Kittredge, one write-off in particular stands out: Dalton, Massachusetts stationary makers Crane and Co. decided to rebuild an old dam upriver from their mill, allowing it to run part of the year on a water turbine system. The expense was deductible, but just how much the company could write off had to be settled by a team of accountants and auditors, working in consultation with the IRS; the write-off quickly became known by everyone involved as that dam deduction. "We had a lot of fun with it," says Kittredge.
Andra Watkins knows her way around a tax return. She was a CPA before launching Positus Consulting, her business advisory firm located in Charleston, South Carolina. Her favorite deduction is her retirement contribution, because she gets to write the money off and keep it for herself. "I get to deduct it as a business expense, but it's still my money," she says.
What’s the point of having money if you can’t do good with it? “One of the whole driving factors to create wealth is to help the world and the community,” says Josh Linkner, CEO of ePrize, a Detroit-area online marketing company. “Charitable giving is absolutely my favorite deduction.” So Linkner encourages all employees to volunteer their time through the ePrize Foundation, which will match them with opportunities to promote creativity, education, and entrepreneurship in the community.