NBA's Lamar Odom cries foul, challenges IRS

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Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom is accustomed to facing formidable opponents on the basketball court. But these days, he’s taking on the Internal Revenue Service in a different court setting over what he sees as a personal foul.

On his 2007 tax return, Odom wanted to claim deductions for $12,000 in sports fines and $178,000 he spent to get in shape. When the IRS said no and sent him a bill for $87,000 in August, Odom filed suit in U.S. Tax Court. The $87,000 total includes $9,000 in interest, but no accuracy-related penalties, which is unusual for such a case.

Odom, who is representing himself, filed and signed a plea at the Washington, D.C. Tax Court office on October 25, based on the August tax bill.

“The taxpayer claimed $12,000 of employee business expenses for fines that were assessed by the National Basketball Association", his plea stated. "These fines are commonly assessed on professional athletes and are work-related. Therefore, the fines incurred are ordinary and necessary employee business expense.”

Odom did not offer details about the actions that lead to the fines.

The IRS included an explanation to the bill sent to Odom: “We have disallowed some of the expenses you claimed as business expenses because it was determined they were personal expenses and not deductible.”

Financial sanctions that arise from criminal cases and violations, such as traffic fines, are not legally tax deductible. Odom’s defense to that deduction was this: “The fines imposed by the team and the NBA are not imposed for the violation of any government law and are therefore not specifically excluded.”

Odom also challenged the IRS for disallowing his fitness expenses. He defended the deduction by writing: “The taxpayer claimed $178,337 of employee business expenses for professional training and conditioning. The taxpayer’s employment contract requires that the taxpayer be in sufficient physical condition that allows him to perform as a professional basketball player throughout the basketball season.”

According Odom's filing, his 2007 adjusted gross income was $9.3 million. Currently he is in the second year of a Lakers contract worth up to $33 million. He also is paid to endorse Samsung mobile phones, and has a line of clothing.

Odom is a native New Yorker. He played for the University of Nevada in Las Vegas until 1997 when an investigation turned up evidence he’d been given $5,600 from a school booster. Following that incident, he played for one season at the University of Rhode Island before going pro. In his third season with the Los Angeles Clippers, the league suspended him for drug violations. He played one year for the Miami Heat, and joined the Lakers in 2004. Odom married reality TV star Khloe Kardashian in 2009.

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