IRS Help for Pet Caretakers?

Seeking info on an IRS deduction for pets? Don’t even think that you can claim your dog as a dependent.

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 parents 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 and you’ll want to find a good tax attorney.

Pet Caretakers Almost Got Relief

Not long ago, there was a glimmer of hope that pet families 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 “4-figure tax break for our 4-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 caretaking — not to mention help decrease animal shelter populations across the country.

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Dave Baker, founder and publisher of Petful, is a journalist and editor who has worked at The New York Times and The Nation magazine. He was also part of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize–winning team at The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Petful is now based. A longtime advocate for pet food safety, Dave has been passionately tracking pet food recalls for the past 10-plus years, and more than 30,000 pet parents are subscribed to his recall alerts — which often arrive faster than even the recall alerts put out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Learn more about Dave and the rest of the Petful team here: Meet the Team.

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