Tax Breaks and Pets: One Vet's Perspective

Hanie Elfenbein, DVM
Written by:
Published: March 28, 2017
Tax Breaks and Pets: One Vet's Perspective

Pet expenses are generally not tax deductible. The IRS does not consider pets dependents the way human children are, and the cost of their care doesn’t qualify as a deductible expense. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get pet-related tax deductions. Here are some pet-related ways to reduce your tax bill:

3 Ways to Reduce Your Tax Bill 

1. Several states, including Oregon and Maryland, are considering or have recently considered tax breaks for adopting a shelter animal. The idea has been presented by legislators in other states as well, so it seems like it’s catching on. Call your local representatives and tell them that encouraging animal adoption is important to you. Or, if you want an immediate tax credit for supporting your local shelter, donate. Shelters are always in need of more towels, blankets, and washable toys. Your tax credit will be based on the value of the items donated. You will need a receipt if the value totals over $250. And, of course, if you write a check to an animal-related 501(c)(3), it’s a charitable deduction.

2. Own a barn or farm? Supplies for a pest control cat are tax deductible. Plus, your local shelter will likely give you a barn cat for free. A barn cat is a cat that for one reason or another is not adoptable as a house pet but still deserves a second chance at a happy life. Everybody wins.

Similarly, if an animal isn’t just supporting your business but actually is your business (e.g. breeders, pet bloggers, show dogs, four-legged movie stars), then animal-related expenses are business expenses and, therefore, tax deductible. There are a lot of rules about what qualifies as a business or hobby, so consult a tax expert for advice.

3. Volunteering with not-for-profit rescue or shelter groups can also help you generate tax deductions. Keep track of your driving mileage. This can add up if you shuttle adoptable animals to events around town, or even if you visit the shelter to walk dogs a few times every month.

And, if you are one of those big-hearted people who fosters animals for those organizations, any expenses that aren’t reimbursed are also tax deductible. Of course, the real benefit of fostering is the joy you get when you introduce your foster pet to her new forever home, but it’s nice to know that you can reduce your tax bill at the same time.

Looking for Pet-Related Tax Deductions

There are a few other specific situations that make animal-related expenses tax deductible, so consult a tax expert if you think you might qualify.

The reason we look for pet-related tax deductions is that our companions can be very expensive. Between food, toys, bedding, and veterinary care, the bills can add up. As a veterinarian, I would love if my clients could deduct their pet’s medical expenses as they do for the humans in the house. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t agree. Instead, one thing I encourage my clients to do is set aside their own pet “tax.” Each month, put aside a little bit of money so you are prepared if a big unexpected bill comes along. Or, your pet savings account can even cover those smaller routine expenses. You already have your taxes taken out of your paycheck so that you don’t have to write a big check once a year, so why not consider doing the same in your own bank account for your four-legged companions? Pet insurance is also available from an increasing number of providers, so then you never have to worry about unexpected veterinary expenses. But that’s a topic for another time. 

Finally finished your taxes? Reward yourself and your pet with a visit to your favorite park or some extra snuggle time on the couch.

Dr. Elfenbein is a veterinarian and animal behaviorist located in Atlanta. Her mission is to provide pet parents with the information they need to have happy, and healthy, and fulfilled relationships with their dogs and cats.

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