IRS Help for Pet Owners?

Is there an IRS deduction for pets? Nope. By: The Found Animals Foundation/Flickr

Is there an IRS deduction for pets? Nope. By: The Found Animals Foundation/Flickr

IRS help for pet owners is sorely lacking right now.

For example: Don’t even think that you can claim your dog as a dependent on your 1040 tax form. You cannot simply “write off your dog.”

According to Turbo Tax, the tax preparation company, “Although the IRS doesn’t specifically spell it out, it is tacitly implied that dependents — at least for taxation purposes — must be human.”

H&R Block, meanwhile, says the IRS made this crystal-clear some years ago when it rejected a taxpayer attempt to write off the boarding costs of his dog as a travel expense when he went away on a business trip.

Pull a stunt like that one and you’ll want to find a good tax attorney.

Pet Owners ALMOST Got Relief

Not long ago, there was a glimmer of hope that pet owners would see a change in the rules. That’s because in 2009, a U.S. Representative introduced legislation known as the HAPPY Act — short for the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years Act.

The legislation — which NPR boasted as a possible “four-figure tax break for our four-legged friends” — would have granted individual taxpayers a $3,500 IRS deduction for pets per year (not per pet) for “qualified pet care expenses.” Those expenses would have included veterinary costs and other day-to-day costs of raising a pet.

Pets that qualified for this tax break would have included not only dogs and cats but all sorts of furry and non-furry critters, from horses to fish and turtles, to birds, rabbits and hamsters.

What Happened to the HAPPY Act?

Unfortunately, that promising tax legislation went nowhere. Several years later, it’s safe to say it’s dead in the water.

Obviously, getting any sort of IRS deduction for pets like the one imagined by the doomed HAPPY legislation would be very welcome. After all, Americans spend a reported $55 billion or more annually on their pets. A tax deduction would encourage pet ownership — not to mention help decrease animal shelter populations across the country.

book-cover-smallest1Were you hoping to get a tax break for caring for a pet? Don’t be too dejected — maybe there’s hope in the future. Leave me a comment below. You might also want to check out my previous post on how cases of salmonella in pet food have exploded over the past few years. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Pets Adviser’s popular email newsletter. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll also be among the first to get alerts about major pet food recalls: Learn more here.

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From Around the Web

  • Jonathan

    I think it is about time the tax authorities move to make some expenses allowable. After all, the pet market as you rightly point out is huge (although for most of us we own pets for the love of it, not as a purely business interest).

  • Linda Depriter

    Yes, we need help with our pets. If we can declare gambling losses, why can’t we declare medical costs for our pets? They are like our kids and have that right. They have animal police now, thank god, and that shows they are important and should be allowed on taxes.

    • David Deleon Baker

      Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I agree — we should be able to take some deduction at the very least for pets healthcare costs (which have grown way out of control). You make an excellent point that if gambling losses can be claimed, why not the exorbitant costs of raising a dog or cat? The Happy Act, as originally written (and I think we can write it off for good), gave a deduction that was almost equal to the child deduction… not sure that’s equivalent, but I do feel that some nod to pets is due.

  • Linda Depriter

    Thanks David, one day soon I’m hoping with all my heart this will happen so all pets can have vet help…

  • Lynne

    I agree with Linda. If gamblers can claim gambling losses, which is ridiculous, and our furkids need us — they depend on us to provide for them — then I say this is a great idea.

    After all, if I have to pay taxes for things that do not benefit me or pay for welfare, then I should get a tax break for being a responsible pawrent.

    I worked my way through school and have student loans. Having my dog and cat was all I had at times, so they have made life easier to deal with at times. Besides, it would be beneficial to keep animals out of the shelters and help owners. Also, it benefits the vet offices in this economy since the owners know they will recoup some expenses. And it will benefit jobs dealing with the pet industry. Hey, kids can walk to school, like I did, or let their parents drive them.

    • David Deleon Baker

      “Responsible pawrent” — I like that, Lynne!

      You’re right, a tax benefit like this would be a boost to veterinary offices, not to mention improve health outcomes for pets (owners won’t be so hesitant to put their hard-earned money toward needed medications or surgeries if they will be getting some of that money back later).

      • Lynne

        Oh thank you, I like it too. Pawrent, that’s it.

        I have friends who are DVMs in other states and even my vet here says the economy has taken a bite out of their normal appointment schedule. It seems even routine exams and shots and spay/neuter are down. It is the animal that suffers.

        Many shelters across the U.S. are funded by donations, not taxes. They have volunteers, like me, or rescue groups that take in fosters, which I have done as well. Someone has to do it, and it would be great if we “responsible pawrents” had some “thank you” benefit.

  • Ziva’sMom

    My sister deducted all expenses related to her “medi-alert” dog all of her 11 years with her accountant’s blessings. She wouldn’t be alive today, in all probability, without her amazing bichon bolognese. I think our pet companions provide emotional support & stability to many of us & there should be a way to offset care expenses. A puppy hug a day keeps the doctor away.

  • Legend’s Mom

    What about prescription food? I could have sworn that last year, prior to needing it, I saw somewhere that you can write off your pet’s prescription food?