Dog lovers, it’s April - and you know what that means. Yes, showers for those May flowers but also… taxes. Now just breathe. We know taxes are a big, scary, ugly word for many of us, but there is at least one bright spot this year if you fostered a dog in the last year or were otherwise involved in the dog rescue world. Eligible deductions! Funny to think about, but fostering a dog actually does come with benefits for your tax purposes, and being in-the-know about what exactly you can do to get those write offs is a bonus this time of year. While you can’t claim your pups as dependents (no matter how much money and stress they may cause), there are other ways to get them in on your paperwork.
In 2009, a Michigan senator introduced a bill that would give pet owners up to $3,500 a year in tax refunds for “qualified pet care” costs. It was an ambitious, heavily inclusive piece of lawmaking that would’ve saved pet owners a chunk of money; unfortunately, the HAPPY Act (short for Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years) didn’t pass on Capitol Hill, despite a decent showing of public support. In spite of the HAPPY Act’s demise, there are some examples of tax-deductible pet care for our four-legged friends. We’ve outlined the biggies below:
Fostering: Maybe you and your family want to open up your hearts and become a foster pet parent. If you work with a qualified 501(c)(3) organization, you may be able to deduct your expenses as a charitable contribution. That means that your veterinarian visits, pet supplies, food, and other related expenses could qualify. Don’t forget to keep track of your mileage (provided the trip is for the organization). As always, make sure you keep careful records and receipts of your expenses. If your expenses are over $250, request an acknowledgement from the charitable organization. If you use TurboTax, TurboTax ItsDeductible will value and track your donations so you have them all together when it comes time to file your taxes. As a result of Van Dusen v. Commissioner, animal rescuers nationwide that are fostering dogs and/or cats for approved charities may claim the expenses during tax time. Even a portion of your utilities can be considered expenses as long as a specific area of your home is only used for the care of the animals and nothing else.
Service Animals: Another situation where you may be able to deduct expenses is if your furry friend is a service animal. You must register your pet with a legitimate agency to prove that it is a service animal and not just a pet. Additionally, if you have a guard dog to protect your business you may be able to claim some of the costs as a business expense. You can deduct expenses such as training and veterinarian care, but like service dogs, you need an agency to declare the four legged protector a guard dog.
Moved? According to Kiplinger, If you moved during the tax year, it might be possible to deduct your moving expenses – including those specifically related to moving your dog. For example, if moving your dog requires special expenses, those expenses are treated no differently (in the federal government’s eyes) than any of your personal effects. Making special arrangements to get Fido from your old home to your new one? Save the receipts!
Rescue and Shelter Donations: It would be easy to assume that the costs of adopting a dog from a registered non-profit, 501(c), would be deductible – the assumption would be wrong. The cost to adopt a dog is not deductible. However, any donations made in excess of regular adoption fees most certainly are. According to the law, only those donations made where no goods or services are received in exchange (i.e., your new dog) can be deducted. Should you choose to make donations to your favorite 501c dog charity, make sure to ask for a letter of receipt that states no goods or services were received. Donations of both goods and services to an approved charity are tax deductible. When donating goods or services to an approved charity, ask for a donation receipt – you’ll need it if the value of your donations exceeds $250. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A. It may seem small, but every little bit helps! Local animal shelters need your newspaper, old towels, sheets, pet beds, sweaters, crates and blankets. They may also be looking for items such as digital cameras, video recorders, printers, fans, heaters, cleaning supplies, office equipment, printer paper, carpeting, and furniture. You can also purchase and donate new items including food, toys, new litter boxes, dog beds, and cat trees. Even if your donation isn’t useful to the shelter itself, they might be able to use it to raise funds. The value of items donated can be a tax deduction! Again, assuming they are a qualified organization, you can deduct the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution, so keep track of what you give and when, and be sure to save the receipts of those newly purchased items. Any cash donation you make to a qualified charitable organization is tax deductible for those who itemize deductions. Don’t know if your favorite rescue fits the bill? Check out IRS Publication 78 for more information on qualifying organizations. While you typically cannot deduct the value of your time, you can deduct mileage traveling to and from the shelter or rescue. The IRS allows a deduction of 14 cents per mile driven in service of a charitable organization. Keep a notebook in your car to track mileage, or use an iPhone or Android app such as Mileage Pad.
Walkers and Trainers: If you own and operate a business with dogs, of course your dog-related business expenses are deductible. If you’re a trainer, you may be able to deduct mileage or transportation costs for visiting clients and their dogs. If you’re a dog walker and need to purchase business related items like leashes and poop bags, those expenses can be itemized. As with any job-related expense, just make sure to keep all receipts and be able to prove the items were for job duties, not for your personal pet.
Fellow dog lovers, what advice do you have for fellow dog owners on what expenses to claim on their taxes? Do you know any key ones we’re missing? Be sure to share and lets tough out this tax season together!
Rocky Kanaka is an entrepreneur, pet rescue advocate and dog dad to a rescue boxer named Flip, a blind Cane Corso called Kobe, and a terrier mix named Zoey. He's also a pet chef and owner of The Dog Bakery, which specializes in dog birthday cakes
and fresh baked dog treats. His three dogs can't get enough of the dog cakes and treats!
Lorna Paxton Ladd is a passionate dog lover and enthusiast of The Dog Bakery. She loves spoiling her 3 rescue dogs with dog cakes
and jerky. A 15 year veteran in the pet industry, her aim is to educate pet parents on the best recipes, products, tips and tricks to optimize the human/canine bond. Her favorite product at The Dog Bakery are the customizable dog birthday cakes.