In some specific cases, your dogs and cats can fetch you tax breaks on pet-related expenses.
Get your paws on some more tax write-offs.
While the IRS won’t let you claim your fur babies as dependents — they’re generally considered a “personal expense” — pets can still fetch you some extra tax breaks in some very specific cases, particularly if you have a service animal or you’re fostering a pet from an IRS-approved nonprofit.
And considering more than half of American households have a pet, and they spend an average of $1,560 a year on them, many strapped pet parents could use all of the help they can get. Annual routine veterinary costs for a dog are about $257, according to the Insurance Information Institute, and vet visits for cats run $182 per year — but surgical expenditures can more than double that. And a fall Association of International Certified Professional Accountants Americans report found one in three people have sacrificed their retirement account to pay for pet-related expenses, and one in four would miss paying a credit card bill to cover something for their pets.
It takes a lot of scratch to pay for food, vet visits, cat litter and other essentials, but many of these expenses can be claimed if you have a service animal, your pet works as a guard dog or rat catcher, or you’re fostering your pet for an approved rescue organization. Here are five ways to potentially claim your pet on your tax return, according to tips from Embrace Pet Insurance and Alison Flores of The Tax Institute at H&R Block.
They’re service animals. Service dog expenses for individuals with physical disabilities, or who need a guide dog for vision or hearing impairments, are certainly tax deductible per IRS Publication 502 — including the cost of purchasing the animal, its training fees and vet visits, as well as food and grooming fees to maintain the health and vitality of the animal so that it can perform its duties. Pet owners with mental health conditions that can benefit from the help of a therapy animal, such as PTSD, may also be able to find deductions.
“We’re talking about an animal that has been trained by an organization that is formally in the business of being a service animal,” Flores told Moneyish, suggesting you have a letter from your doctor diagnosing your condition as well as a recommendation or prescription from your doctor for a service animal. You should also have documentation of your service dog’s training, and you should keep receipts for all expenses related to your animal that you want to deduct.
They’re business animals. Working dogs and cats can be eligible for deductions to cover their living expenses, including food, veterinary care and training related to their jobs. Some animals that could qualify include security dogs protecting a place of business, or a cat employed to control rodents at workplace, particularly when hiring animals for these services is common in your field. “In a limited amount of circumstances, this would be acceptable to the IRS, but documentation is very important,” said Flores. “You need to demonstrate a need for the animal and maintain really good records,” such as a diary or log book of their hours worked.
They’re making money. Performing animals who star in print and TV ads, movies and TV shows, or critters making you money by being social media influencers (hello, Grumpy Cat), could also qualify for deductions if they are making their owners enough money to be taxable income. “If your dog is an Instagram star, that’s your business, that would be reported as self-employed income,” she explained, “so the IRS would look at it as a business, and then look at what business expenses are associated.” So transporting your pet to shoots, feeding them, grooming, etc., could possibly be deducted as business expenses.
They’re foster animals. If you foster a pet for an IRS qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, expenses such as food, medications, travel costs and supplies can be deducted. “If you sign up to provide a service to care for a foster animal, and you are contributing the cost of food and care of that animal, then you are kind of considered to be providing a service to a charitable organization, and in limited circumstances, that could be a charity donation,” said Flores – and eligible for a deduction. But the shelter or rescue that you are fostering animals for needs to be an approved 501(c)(3) organization. Flores noted you can’t write off expenses “for an animal you just found on the street and took in.”
You’re in the military and you’re moving. Prior to the new tax law, you could deduct moving expenses for members of your household, including what it cost to ship or transport your pet. “Moving expenses are gone for the majority of us — but there is an exception for armed forces service members,” noted Flores, “and it includes the cost of moving your household, and traditionally pets have been considered part of your household.
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