Artist Cuts Up Cash For Tax Deduction

Chad Person

When it comes to paying federal taxes, artist Chad Person takes penny pinching to a whole new level.

The California-based designer is cutting up dollar bills - actual, paper dollars - to create collages of military weaponry, and then deducting those dollars from his taxable income. As materials for his business, the sliced and diced dollars are exempt from some taxes, thereby lowering Person's overall tax rate.

"Rather than buying $200 of paint today, I withdrew $200 and chopped it up and turned it into paint essentially," Person said, describing his collages. "It greatly reduces my liability."

While Person refused to disclose how much the crafty deduction is saving him, he said it was a "fair amount."

Though having an extra chunk of change every year is a nice byproduct, Person said his more important goal is "taking money literally right off the table from the military industrial complex."

The less money he pays in taxes, Person said, the less funding the government has for bombs and tanks.

"If I slice up a hundred dollars to make an image, or a thousand, or just five, I am taking it out of the IRS coffers," Person wrote on his web site, which showcases his dollar bill art. Although he acknowledges "it might have been just enough to halt the purchase of one box of ammunition."

So far Person has created about 60 to 70 "currency on canvas" collages as part of his "TaxCut" collection, which he began about four years ago as a form of anti-war protest. From tanks and fighter jets to missiles and assault ships, each mosaic intricately depicts a piece of military machinery using nothing but cash and archival glue on canvas.

One such image could take anywhere from a few dollars to $15,000, Person said. For some pieces he uses a mere 1/200 th of the dollar bill because some of the textures he wants are only found on a tiny section of the dollar.

Cutting up cash, as Person does for his collages, is technically against the law. According to the Secret Service, "defacing" dollar bills is punishable by a small fine and up to six months in prison, but offenders are rarely prosecuted.

"I can't see that anyone should be concerned," Person said about his apparent unlawfulness. "I'm an artist making a commentary that should certainly be protected under free speech. I can't imagine people thinking it would be worth the expense of putting me behind bars for six months."