The band played, the wine flowed and the 700 guests celebrated the bar mitzvah of David Feldman, son of Rabbi Arnold H. Feldman. And the taxpayer paid, at least until the U.S. Tax Court ruled this week that the rabbi could not deduct the $4,031 cost as a business expense.
Feldman, of Congregation Shaare Shamayim/GNJC in Philadelphia, wrote off the cost of his son's 1975 bar mitzvah reception because, he said, his position required him to invite all 725 families of the congregation.
He invoked a section of the tax code that allows deductions for the "ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred . . . in carrying on a trade or business." He said the reception was not entertainment, but an occasion at which fund-raising was discussed. The reception constituted "an integral part of his professional activities," Feldman said.
The tax court agreed with the Internal Revenue Service that the occasion was social; the cost nondeductible.
Feldman "was not required to invite the entire membership of the congregation to David's bar mitzvah service and reception as a condition of his employment," the court said, calling the reception a personal celebration.
The bill: $674 in back taxes.