All the Ways You Can Write Off Your Pet This Tax Season · The Wildest

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5 Ways You Can Write Off Your Pet This Tax Season

Because in our world, nothing is certain except pets and taxes.

by Sean Zucker
March 25, 2024
Young woman sitting with her pet dog and using laptop at home.
filadendron / iStock

Tax season. That beautiful time of year when I’m reminded of my borderline elementary-level math skills and poor spending habits. Still, it’s always been a season for giving and hope. I give the government money and hope that it’s the right amount to avoid incarceration. But among the hours of stress and finger-counting, there are a few bright spots in this annual exercise. For instance: Did you know that there are ways to write off your pet in your taxes?

It’s true, albeit in a restricted capacity. “There is limited availability to deduct pet expenses. Only in a few circumstances, we can deduct limited pet expenses,” explains Roxanne Hendrix, a certified public accountant (CPA) and a tax expert with JustAnswer.

Despite Hendrix’s warning, I initially assumed this was merely a matter of semantics. Surely, if I view my dog not as a pet but as my child — which she is — then I’ll be able to file my taxes accordingly. Sadly, the IRS disagrees. “Pets cannot be claimed as dependents, however, under any circumstances,” Hendrix confirms.

Whatever —  they’ll come around eventually. Until then, there are other methods of getting tax credits for your pet. Below are five ways to write off your dog, cat, or child unrecognized by the federal government.

1. You’re a foster volunteer. 

Shelters constantly struggle with overcrowding as there are far too many animals in need of refuge and care. So, when you foster a pet, it opens up space in local facilities for more animals to be cared for.

It’s a selfless act that truly saves lives. But it can also help save you money. “If you foster a pet for a non-profit adoption organization, you may be able to write off unreimbursed expenses,” Hendrix says. 

These write-offs could include pet food, crates, cleaning products, vet bills, or medicine. Hendrix adds that driving expenses may even be applicable in certain situations, especially when volunteering for animal organizations.

“You can also deduct 14 cents per mile on any charity-related driving, excluding commuting expenses though,” she says. Of course, it wouldn’t be taxes if there wasn’t a vague caveat to temper the excitement. The CPA notes that only pets fostered from IRS-qualified 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for these write-offs.

2. Your pet’s a service animal.

As previously mentioned, we can’t claim our animals as children, because I guess the latter half of “pet parent” doesn’t apply here. But if you look hard enough, you can find a loophole for anything. And there’s one here. 

“Service animal-related expenses may be eligible for a tax write-off because your pet is providing a medical service to you,” Hendrix explains. This extends to emotional support animals in many cases, as well. She adds that you can write off any service animal medical expenses that exceed past 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. You’ll just need to prove that your pet provides a specific medical service to you.

3. Your pet is part of the family biz.

For many parents, having their kid one day take over the family business is a dream come true. While that’s impossible for pet parents due to numerous species constraints, some are still able to contribute to the family trade. These folks may even be entitled to various tax breaks, according to Christian Maldonado, the founder and CEO of the accounting firm Finsult

“For business owners, pet expenses are deductible if they provide a service for the business,” he explains. This would include farm dogs that are used to protect livestock from prey. In this scenario, the expenses needed to maintain the life of the dog would qualify as tax write-offs because they’re recognized as “necessary for the continued operations of the business in pursuit of income and growth,” Maldonado adds. 

Other examples would include cats that conduct pest control throughout a business location or pets that are used in advertising on the company’s social media. However, in regard to advertising, you must be able to prove that they directly produced related income. 

“For example, if your animal is a key central token to your YouTube channel that generates income for your business, it’s known as a ‘performance’ animal to the IRS as it is directly tied to producing income for the business so the stated expenses would qualify as write-offs,” Maldonado adds.

4. Your pet is an influencer.

Similarly, if your pet themselves is a breadwinner, you could be entitled to a tax credit. If your pet is the type of animal to have their own YouTube account, you may also qualify for a pet tax deduction because they still perform in a way that earns you income. As a result, you could potentially write off their expenses. This would include pets who have worked on a movie set or have competed in events that offered cash prizes. 

However, the most likely scenario here is if your dog or cat is one of the 5,000-ish pet influencers I follow on Instagram. This would all fall under that performance animal designation. Just be sure to keep your books in order come tax season, Hendrix warns.

“If you have a ‘performance animal,’ make sure you keep records of all the related expenses,” she says. The records you keep will determine what you are able to claim and how much you are ultimately able to lower your tax liability.”

5. You donated to an animal organization.

Charitably supporting animal rescues and shelters is no different than donating to any other type of organization and is tax deductible all the same. Unfortunately, this does not apply to any charges made in the process of bringing your pet home. 

“Shelters, rescues, and other legally formed pet-based charities are eligible as tax deductions. This does not include initial adoption fees for new pets if it’s directly correlated to you getting the animal in the exchange,” Maldonado notes. Regardless, who could put a price on a loving home and family? I guess the IRS, but I digress. 

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

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