I recently read an article about a woman who fosters cats who was able to deduct the money she spends on her foster kitties from her federal taxes. Not only is this precedent a boon for current pet foster families, it may help encourage other people to foster pets.
Of course, many pet owners have been beating the “tax break” drum for years about taking deductions for their own pets. Part of the logic is that if we can take deductions for kids, why not for dogs and cats?
In 2009, a bill made the rounds in the House of Representatives called the Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years (the HAPPY Act), which would allow pet families to take up to $3,500 in deductions for their pets, including veterinary care. But it never made it out of committee.
We know that it would mean a lot for pet parents to be able to deduct their pets’ expenses, but what we don’t know is how many pet-less people might consider adopting a pound puppy or shelter kitty if they could feel more confident about affording the animal. How amazing would it be if this bill helped not only current pet parents, but also helped alleviate some of the shelter overpopulation problem?
But then I get scared. What if irresponsible people started getting pets just for the tax break? A second later reality hits. Irresponsible people already have pets. That’s why we have shelters overflowing with homeless animals and euthanasia rates that make angels weep.
That aside, this “tax break” idea leads me to my real question: Are pets a luxury or something we need?
Many people would say that we need pets, citing studies about how petting an animal reduces blood pressure, how pets alleviate depression, and how pets increase outdoor recreation and socialization – all good things. But do you need pets? Could you live and breathe and take one more step without your pet? Yes. In theory, you could.
In 2012, the pet industry in the US is estimated to yield a record $52.87 billion in revenue. That’s a lot of kibble. For comparison, the heating and air conditioning trade in the US is a $58 billion industry, and the beer industry pulls $91.6 billion in revenue. Could you live without air conditioning in the summer, or skip that cold brew? Yes. You could.
But the question is: Would you want to? Are the things that make our lives better, nicer, and more pleasant a necessity or a luxury? Is it these little luxuries that give us quality of life, or is simply breathing enough?
Imagine a country that gives its citizens $3,500 a year in tax breaks on their pets. Where do you think they would spend that extra cash? Probably on their pets! The pet industry could give the beer industry a real run for its money on a billion-to-billion basis.
We, as pet owners, are not asking for a hand out. If we could get a break on veterinary care, pet food, and other pet essentials, we could spend the extra money on the fun stuff, like dog beds and coats, pawdicures and woofday parties – and the people who own the companies where we spend our extra cash can feed their families and send their kids to college. Tax breaks for pet owners are great for the economy! Trickle down economics might not have worked perfectly in the Reagan era, but pet owners can make anything work. If we can get pee stains out of light colored carpeting, we can certainly be responsible with our tax break cash.
That’s my two cents. Spend it where you please. I don’t pretend to be an economist (and my math is fairly poor, I must admit), but I do know a good idea when I see it.
Apparently, there are certain circumstances where you can deduct your pets’ expenses, but you’d better have an air-tight case:
- Guard dog: Your dog must be guarding property, not just you. Typically, the IRS will only accept big, scary dogs as “guard dogs,” though we all know that Chihuahuas are more than happy to scare off intruders.
- Vermin hunters: Does your dog or cat keep rats and mice away from something valuable, like a horse feed room or your priceless art collection? You might have a case to deduct your Rat Terrier’s kibble.
- Service dogs: If your dog is a qualified service animal, you can deduct his expenses.
- Moving: Your dog is considered “property,” so if you are moving for business you can deduct the cost of moving your dog as well.
- Become a dog (or pet) professional: If you earn income as a result of your pets (directly or indirectly), can you take deductions for them.
What do you think? Should we get tax breaks for our pets? All in favor say woof.