Minuteman

Alabama Section

Is it a Dependent or a Car?

Is it a Dependent or a Car?

A woman's perspective of living with and loving a Mercedes-Benz Maniac

Authored by our own Bonnie Fancy.

Reprinted with permission from The Star Magazine. Posted February 2011.


WARNING! Do NOT try this at home! It could lead to big trouble with the IRS which means a hefty fine and free room and board for several years at taxpayer expense.

Recently, Tom and Ray Magliozzi in their Car Talk column answered a question about whether or not the dream car the writer had wanted as a teen was still a good idea. They answered that it wasn't if what you wanted was a daily driver. They told the reader, “Just understand that you're not buying a car, you're buying a dependent.”

That got me thinking. Could we claim our older cars as dependents? We don't even have to make up a name. After all, Mercedes is a woman's name. In fact the car was named after Mercedes Jellinek. Some people, and they shall remain nameless, even call their cars their “babies” or, if it is an older car “the old girl” and give them names. Betsey seems to be popular.

But, before I got carried away with my thoughts, I decided to check with a couple of tax preparers I know as to what a dependent is, at least in the eyes of the IRS. They are both scrupulously honest which might be a draw back in claiming the 1960 220 SE as a dependent, but I had to give it a shot. One refused to have anything to do with this project; the other said he would help as long as he remained anonymous.

He Who Shall Remain Nameless said that to qualify as a child the alleged dependent must be your son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, or a descendent such as a grandchild. A sibling would qualify, as would a niece or nephew. Well, maybe I could pass the 220 off as my adopted child.

No, because there are age requirements. The “child” must be under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than Ernie or I. While the 220 is younger than either of us, she is older than 19. Children up to age 24 can be claimed if they are full time students.

Maybe the girl is a full time student. What institution of higher learning could she be attending? Do you have to prove it? Would the IRS check with the school? What would her major be—German, metallurgy, automotive engineering? But she is too old to qualify, so that's a dead end.

With a few exceptions such as death, or kidnapping, a child must have lived with you for more than half the year. Ah HA, now we are cooking. The alleged dependent has been with us for over 8 years.

To qualify as a dependent, a child must not have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year. Ah HA again, that car has never earned a cent, although she has cost plenty.. Still there are more Oh oh's than Ah ha's, so claiming the car as a dependent child isn't going to work, so what about claiming her as a relative.

Once again He Who Shall Remain Nameless gave me a reality check. In order to qualify as a member of the household the “person” must have lived with you for a year. No problem there. The “person” must have earned less than $3,650 that year. No problem there. Documentation might be required to explain why a 50 year old woman is unemployed. Is she disabled? Maybe we are on to something. If she's up on blocks or on a rotisserie, she might be considered to be in traction. Those little four wheeled roller skate things that people put under the wheels of the car to move it around without actually starting it might pass for a wheel chair or crutches, but getting a qualified person to declare Auntie Mercedes disabled could be a problem. Actual humans have problems with this, especially if it is a back ailment.

Could the repairs be considered medical treatments and procedures? That valve job could pass for cardiac surgery, couldn't it? If so, then dent repair would qualify as cosmetic surgery. Would it be possible to claim the new tires as ‘shoes”? If so then special tires for autocross might be orthopedic shoes.

Under the circumstances, who would be qualified to make this determination? A doctor with a strong background in auto restoration, a good imagination, and absolutely no scruples might do. However, He Who Shall Remain Nameless pointed out that the disability has to be total and permanent . Well, so much for restoration.

We could say that we supply all her food, clothing and shelter. Would new sheepskin seat covers qualify as a clothing expense? What about a new convertible top? After all, the old lady needs a hat. Would a garage pass for an in-law apartment?

Would gasoline, oil, coolant and other fluids qualify as food? If you indicate how much you spend on food for “the old girl”, will it look believable in the human context? If you aren't spending enough, would you find yourself being investigated for elder abuse? After all, if it's a collector car, it would have to be an “elder” wouldn't it?

The biggest drawback, according to He Who Shall Remain Nameless is the need for a social security number for Dear Aunt Mercedes. There is no way a VIN number can pass for a Social Security number, and Auntie can't apply in person for a social security card, and, to complicate things further she has no birth certificate. That brings up the subject of citizenship. Where was she “born”? Most likely she was born in Stuttgart, Germany. Is she a citizen? No? Well then, does she have a green card? No, and it might be hard to get one. Deportation looms. This is too complicated. Scratch that idea.

He Who Shall Remain Nameless also pointed out that fudging on your taxes is illegal and subject to stiff penalties, so I repeat.

Do NOT try this at home.

In restoring cars, it is easy to accumulate a number of odd parts. It starts when the part ordered doesn't fit the car you are working on even though the seller said it would. All sales being final, the part goes in a box with other parts. One way Ernie got a lot of odd bits was at an auction. He thought he was bidding on one item on a table; actually he was bidding on the contents of the whole table. He was philosophical about it.

“I can probably sell these and make my money back.”

They disappeared into the garage attic never to be seen again until just recently.

Another way parts pile up is to replace one, say a windshield wiper motor with a rebuilt one. If it were me, I would throw away the old one because it is unusable. No, it went in the box with the other parts because, “you never know; I might need this someday.”

The most insidious way parts pile up is via the Parts Car. A parts car is one that is so beat up and rusted that no one would even think of restoring it. These cars are useful in providing various parts that can't be found through Mercedes Benz or through the trading post in the Star. You just have to haul these derelicts home and strip them down. Currently, two parts cars inhabit our back yard. These two early to mid-sixties 220's are minus grills and some other parts.

There are, at least according to my resident expert, some usable bits of chrome (they just need to be rechromed), maybe some window glass, and possibly some of the inner workings. Once he gets rid of the usable stuff, what's left--A large, steel, residential motel for rodents, or, depending on how fastidious the neighbors are, a major eye sore.

These two cars are in such poor shape they are almost unrecognizable as Mercedes Benz. A friend from up the street told me she and her young son play “punch buggy” and every time they pass our house, Josh punches her and says “Punch Buggy.” Well, at least he's got the right country.

Now that we are planning on relocating, it's time to get serious about unloading some items. How do you get rid of old car parts?

First and foremost is the Trading Post in “The Star”, or an ad in your section newsletter might get rid of some of the stuff. There are other ways to consider, however.

I have gone on record as saying how much I don't like automotive flea markets.

However, my prejudice is based on being a potential customer. Recently, Ernie rented space at a flea market in hopes of selling off some of the extraneous car parts he had accumulated. His goal was modest. He just wanted to make enough money to cover the cost of the space. I looked at the pile of bits and pieces, some with a patina of rust and the first thing that popped into my mind was “Dumpster bait.”

“You really think people are going to buy this stuff?” I was incredulous.

“Sure, those things alone are worth about twenty dollars each,”

I looked at the little rusty metal box type things with screws and hooks on them. I had no idea (still don't) what they were. Incredibly they sold. People were ecstatic to find this “thing”.

“Is that a framitz to a '37 Gizmobile?” asked one man in a voice, giddy with excitement.

Ernie assured him it was and named a price. The customer pulled out his wallet and paid without haggling. I decided Ernie had under priced the framitzes. Still, they were gone, and by the end of the day, so were most of the large items as well as miscellaneous small things, and Ernie had made a profit. Good, less stuff for the dumpster when we move.

It is the parts cars that have me concerned. Do we really want or have to transport these things down to the new place? Isn't there someone who will take them? For a few minutes, at least, it looked like there might be.

A while back a man pulled into our driveway and came to the front door. Only strangers do that. He wanted to know about the cars up back. “Are they Mercedes Benz?”

I called Ernie to the door. I figured they spoke the same language. Ernie sent him around back and said he'd be up in a minute. While my husband was putting on his shoes, I said.

“I don't care how much he offers, take it. It's cheaper than having them hauled away.”

Ernie surprised me. “Heck, he can have them.”

The two men walked around the cars and talked. Ernie showed him the current restoration project and they talked. It started to get dark, so Ernie turned on the garage lights and they talked some more. Eventually the man left. He had decided he didn't want the cars. That's how bad they are.

There used to be a junk dealer up the street who would take the old hulks to his yard in the city, but he has become reluctant to take old cars. I don't know if it is an environmental thing or not. I do know that my environment would be much improved without them.

I've even offered to break them down for Ernie. Heck, even I know how to use a hack saw and a sledge hammer. Well, maybe I'll save the good bits and try sell them to someone. Anything leftover will be cut up small and put out with the trash.

I know! Maybe my cousin who runs the avant garde art gallery in Buffalo will take them. I'll tell him they are a work of art depicting the death of the gasoline age. Nah, he's not that gullible.

Bonnie Fancy