If you’re wondering ‘Can I claim my dog on my taxes?’ then read on as we guide you through the ins and outs of potential ways that you could make a claim.
Whilst dogs themselves cannot be counted as your dependent, there may well be some expenses associated with dog ownership that are definitely tax deductible and are worth looking into. Tax deductible dog expenses are certainly available in some circumstances – for instance if you have a service dog, own a business with a guard dog or even regularly help out at your local animal shelter.
The simple answer as to whether you can claim deductions on your taxes for dog-related items is that it really depends on your individual circumstances. There are quite a few situations where it could be possible to claim a deduction, some of which we would never have guessed!
Scenarios For Claiming a Tax Deduction
Below are the most common scenarios where you could claim a tax deduction for some of the expenses associated with your dog:
- Guard dogs at business premises
- Moving house for work, and taking Fido with you
- Fostering dogs for charity
- Adopting a dog from your local registered charity
- Donating goods and services to charity
- You have a service dog
- Fostering and training service dogs
- You own a dog related business
- Dog related hobbies
If any of these apply to you then scroll on down to the relevant section and see what you need to do!
Guard Dogs at Business Premises
The costs of keeping a guard dog on business premises, including food and veterinary bills, is tax deductible. The percentage that can be deducted here will relate to the amount of time the dog spends guarding the premises. So assuming the location doesn’t need your guard dog to be actively on duty during business hours, you could claim for those hours when there are no people on site.
Bear in mind that the IRS will look carefully at both the breed of dog and its suitability for the job. So, you’re much more likely to make a successful claim if your dog is a breed which is associated with guarding, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers. If you’re claiming against your toy poodle that you sometimes take to work and barks at everyone, you’re very unlikely to be successful!
You will also want to provide evidence of how the dog works to protect your business premises and contents. For example, keep a record of any training sessions you may take your dog to. The IRS has a precedent for allowing expenses associated with a guard dog to be tax deductible so as long as you have kept decent records, this situation shouldn’t be a problem.
Moving House for Work, and taking Fido with you
If you are moving house for a job-related reason, for example a promotion which also involves a transfer, you can deduct the cost of moving your pet. To qualify for this deduction, there are a few different criteria that you need to make sure you meet.
Firstly, the move has to coincide closely with when you start your new job. Secondly, there is a distance criteria which states that your new job must be at least 50 miles further away from your old home than your previous job was. Thirdly, you must work at least 39 weeks of the first year after you move.
If it sounds as though you could well meet these criteria, for instance if you moved from the east coast to the west coast in order to take up a new full-time position. In an example such as this, you should be able to claim for any costs of transporting your pet, such as paying a professional pet haulage company to move your dog for you.
Fostering Dogs for Charity
Fostering dogs for an IRS-approved charity is also considered a charitable donation and therefore is tax deductible as well. Here, expenses for vets bills, food and other essential items may qualify. You can also make a claim for a percentage of your utility bill, providing you have an allocated area of your property which is used only for the care of your foster dogs.
An important point to note is that in order to be eligible to claim a tax deduction in this kind of situation, you need to make sure that the organization you are volunteering for in recognized as a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity.
If you just happen to pick up a stray dog off the street and decide to foster it before finding it a new home, you wouldn’t be able to apply for any tax deductible expenses. On the other hand, if you took in a foster dog from a local 501 (c)(3) group, then you would be able to claim expenses.
Another option would be to form your own group and apply for tax-exempt status that way.
Whilst the majority of organizations will provide veterinary care and food for any fostered animals, if you find yourself taking an emergency trip to the vet over a holiday weekend, or buying an extra bag of dog food because the foster dog eats way more than anticipated, keep records and you should be able to deduct these too.
Many fosterers of course take on stray dogs for the love of it, but when you consider the amount of goods bought in the course of a year whilst caring for these animals, it all adds up. Even if the charity covers the food and vets bills, you probably buy disinfectant, dog leashes, poop bags, collars and all manner of other small items all associated with the care of a dog. If you remember to keep receipts for all of these, you might well find that you can claim these as tax deductible expenses.
Additionally, bear in mind that any trip to the local charity for check-ups will also be tax deductible, at a rate of 14 cents per mile.
Adopting a Dog from your Local Registered Charity
Whilst adopting a dog from a registered non-profit organization is not tax deductible, any donation you choose to make to this charity over and above the standard adoption fee is tax deductible. Make sure you ask for a receipt which states that no goods or services were obtained for the additional amount paid.
As an example, if you adopt your dog at a cost of $250, this might cover expenses such as vaccinations, microchipping and kenneling costs. You might decide to instead pay the charity $400, because that’s a figure you’re comfortable with when taking into account all the time, effort and love that has gone into fostering your new dog. So, you can claim for a tax deduction on the $150 you paid that was over and above the standard adoption fee.
As with fostering dogs, in order to be eligible to claim a tax deduction in this kind of situation, you need to make sure that the organization you are volunteering for in recognized as a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity.
Donating Goods and Services to Charity
Donation of both goods and services to an approved charity are tax deductible. So if you regularly donate dog food, bedding or your time to your favorite doggy charity, do ask them for a donation receipt so you can file for a charitable contribution. It’s also a good idea to as the charity for a letter which mentions your involvement with them, number of hours spent cleaning pens or walking dogs.
Again, remember that any trips you take for the benefit of the charity can be claimed at a rate of 14 cents per mile. So, if you took a trip across county to support your chosen charity at a fundraising day, be sure to add that to any claim.
Also, it’s worth remembering that if any single donation or purchase is over $250, you’ll need a letter from the charity stating the exact donation amount as well as the value of any goods or services you received in exchange for the donation.
You know what we’re going to say this time: in order to be eligible to claim a tax deduction in this situation, you need to make sure that the organization you are volunteering for in recognized as a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity.
You have a Service Dog
If you have a service dog, you can include the cost of maintaining them in a condition which allows them to do their job to the best of their ability. As a rough guide, this includes grooming costs, veterinary bills as well as food and medication.
The IRS states that “you can include in medical expenses the costs of buying, training and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal to assist a visually impaired or hearing-impaired person, or a person with other physical disabilities. In general, this includes any costs, such as food, grooming and veterinary care, incurred in maintaining the health and vitality of the service animal so that it may perform its duties.”
It’s also a really good idea to ensure your own medical records are up to date as well, here in case you are asked for verification.
Also, if you foster and train puppies which are destined to become service dogs, this qualifies as tax deductible as well. If this is you, read on for our next section!
Fostering and Training Service Dogs
All service dogs require a significant amount of training before they are considered ready to go out to work. Most service dogs are placed with a foster family for the majority of their puppyhood, where they are exposed to everyday scenarios like crossing the road and taking a trip to the supermarket.
If you are involved in fostering or training service animals including guide dogs and hearing dogs, then you might not have thought about claiming against the expenses involved in the everyday care of these animals. This type of care is considered a charitable donation to the organization which owns the dog, so you would qualify for a deduction.
You Own a Dog related Business
If your business is dog related then of course you can claim for business expenses. For instance if you own a pet grooming salon and regularly need to buy supplies, get clippers serviced or travel around picking up dogs, you can claim against all of those things.
If you’re a professional dog walker and get through a ton of poop bags and leashes, then those expenses can also be deducted. In all cases, make sure you ask for itemized receipts and keep these in a safe place until you file your tax return.
Dog related Hobbies
If you show your dog as a hobby, then any prize money is considered ‘hobby income’ and as a result you should be able to deduct costs of training and transport up to the amount earned.
Another potential avenue for tax deductible expenses could be painting pet portraits if you sell any of your work and declare the earnings as taxable income then you can offset the cost of materials. These cases can get quite complicated as you will have to itemize all expenses and there are quite a few restrictions in place. For example, the total earned must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income before it’s eligible for deduction.
In all of these cases, we can’t stress enough how important it is for you to keep records of all transactions that you may want to file as tax-deductible. Get into the habit of filing away any receipts, invoices and bills that you think are important.
If you don’t keep proper records, the IRS may well refuse your claim.
See your Tax Professional for More Details
Everyone’s claim will be different, so we recommend you make an appointment with a tax professional to discuss the validity of any claims before filing your tax return. If you know of any other tax deductions which we haven’t mentioned here, or have successfully claimed a deduction for your dog’s expenses, please let us know in the comments section.