‘Momma Mia!’ ABBA admits to unusual tax planning

Björn Ulvaeus, founder of the Swedish rock group ABBA, has admitted that the quartet was looking to save “Money, Money, Money” in the late ’70s and early ’80s when they donned their trademark glittering hot pants, sequined jumpsuits and platform heels to take to the stage to perform hit songs like “Fernando” and “Dancing Queen.”

According to ABBA: The Official Photo Book, the band’s sartorial style was influenced in part by laws that allowed a Swedish tax deduction for the cost of the outfits – provided the costumes were so outrageous they could not possibly be worn on the street.

“In my honest opinion, we looked like nuts in those years,” Ulvaeus said. “Nobody can have been as badly dressed on stage as we were.”

U.S. taxpayers face similar tax laws. The IRS says you can deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes if two requirements are met:

  • You must wear the clothes as a condition of your employment.
  • The clothes must not be suitable for everyday wear.

It is not enough that you wear distinctive clothing. The clothing must be specifically required by your employer. Nor is it enough that you do not, in fact, wear your work clothes away from work. The clothing must not be suitable for taking the place of your regular clothing.

In 2007, Ulvaeus sent out an “SOS” to his tax advisers after a “Super Trouper” from the Swedish taxing authority accused him of failing to pay 85 million kronor ($13 million) in Swedish taxes. Ulvaeus asked his advisers to “Take a Chance on Me” and avoided meeting his “Waterloo” as he successfully appealed the decision.

When it comes to taxes, “The Winner Takes It All.”

“I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay and still there never seems to be a single penny left for me.” – ABBA, “Money, Money, Money,” Andersson, Ulvaeus & Kotliar