Can you claim pets on taxes?

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claiming pets on taxes

More than 60 million U.S. households own a dog and more than 47 million have a cat, reports the Insurance Information Institute (III). Millions more share their homes and lives with fish, horses, reptiles, and small animals. This means that approximately 68-percent of all American families are pet owners. For many people, their pets are family, which often leads to a common question, specifically for dog owners, "Can I claim my dog on my taxes? "The answer is, yes—but only in specific instances.

What about vet bills? Are they tax deductible?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, annual routine veterinary costs for a dog are about $257 and almost double that for surgical expenditures. Vet costs for a cat average a bit lower at about $182 for routine visits. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t allow deductions for pet veterinary expenses regarding animals that don’t fall into categories such as service, therapy, or business animals.

Tax Deductions for Pets

A pet cannot be claimed as a dependent on their owner's U.S. taxes. However, the IRS does grant certain tax deductions for dogs and other pets. These deductions include but are not limited to:

  • Business animals

  • Donations to pet-related charities

  • Foster pets

  • Service animal expenses

Tax Deductions for Business Animals

Owners of business animals may be able to deduct expenses like food, veterinary care, and training related to the animal’s job.

Typically dogs who work as a security measure for a business fall into the category of business animals. While they may be considered pets by their owners, these working dogs often live at the business 24/7 instead of in the owner’s home. A cat "employed" for rodent control at a business also may qualify. Animals who generate income for their owners, such as performing animals, may be part of this category as well. Performing animals appear in commercials, movies, television, print ads, and other related industries.

Pet Rescue Expenses and Donations to Pet-related Charities

Did you adopt a dog or cat from a rescue organization this year? If yes, you've just made a huge difference in the life of an animal. Unfortunately, the adoption fee for a pet is not tax deductible. However, donations made to the rescue/charitable organization for which no goods or services are received, may be deductible.

Tax Deductions for Foster Pets

Offering a loving home for abused, neglected, and abandoned animals means providing more than just shelter. Families who foster dogs and other animals can incur several expenses each year. Expenses can range from food to medications, supplies, and even travel costs. Bankrate states, “Unreimbursed expenses for fostering a pet for an IRS qualified 501(c)(3) adoption organization can be deducted.” Deductions include food, supplies, and veterinary bills plus up to “14-cents per mile for trips made to further the shelter’s work.” 

Service Dog Tax Deductions

Certain service dog expenses are tax deductible. Via IRS Publication 502, deductions are available for individuals requiring a guide dog for vision or hearing impairments. These deductions may include expenses incurred when purchasing the animal as well as training fees or any veterinary expenses. Pet owners diagnosed with a condition that benefits from the help of a trained therapy animal, may also find deductions as well.

If you are an owner raising and/or training service or therapy dogs for an IRS-recognized charity, there are available tax deductions. These deductions can include basics like food and supplies as well as medications and veterinary visits.

While you can claim pets on taxes, the deductions are specific and many household pets simply do not meet the criteria set by the IRS. However, if you do think you may be able to claim certain deductions, be sure to save all receipts throughout the year to provide proof of expenses. If you’re unsure about pet deductions, consult a trusted tax professional.