Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Many years ago I travelled cross country on an escorted rail trip on Amtrak.  Among my fellow travelers was a retired couple from a suburb of our capital city of Trenton (TRENTON MAKES - THE WORLD TAKES).

The husband’s doctor had told him he needed to walk more.  So every day he would take a walk through the streets of his town.  As he walked he kept his head down to see where he was going.  In the course of a year he found about $123.00 literally “at his feet”!  Money, coins and bills, on the ground.

I do not walk much, now less than then, but once I heard that story I, too, began to walk with my head down, looking for coinage on the street.  In a year I had accumulated a little over $12.00 in found money.  Hey – it equaled two free movie tickets at the time (when I went to the movies).  And even today it’s a free ham and cheese omelet breakfast at my local diner.

When you go to the drive-up window of a fast food joint to pay do not park too close to the window.  Leave enough room to be able to open your door a bit – you will usually find coins on the ground under the window.

You can also find coins, often quarters, on the ground underneath the basket at toll booths.  When I would travel late at night and come upon a Garden State Parkway toll that cost 35 cents I would often be able to pay the toll and pocket 25 cents with what I found on the ground.

Since this is a blog about taxes, to justify this post perhaps I should discuss if this found money is taxable.

Yes, it would be income, and you would have to report it as miscellaneous income, much like gambling winnings or a prize won on a tv game show, on Line 21 of Form 1040.

Generally increases in wealth are taxable.  I do believe there is a Tax Court case concerning a "hidden hoard".  A person bought a piano somewhere and later found a pile of money hidden inside, which was determined to be taxable.

The bottom line - found value is taxable.



Tom said...

As the old saying goes, 'loose lips, sink ships'

Monika Hatfield said...

Great post! I really enjoy your writing style.

It’s painful but we have to pay taxes on everything that is considered an income (IRS understands it very broadly).
There is one type of income worth mentioning that not everyone thinks of as taxable. It is ‘bartering’, which occurs when you exchange goods or services without exchanging money. For example if you are a vet and you provide your services to a CPA in exchange for accounting advise, you must include in your gross income the fair market value of services you received!