SBS NOVA | Save on Your Doggone Taxes The IRS and your pets
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Save on Your Doggone Taxes The IRS and your pets

Save on Your Doggone Taxes The IRS and your pets

It seems like there’s a tax statute that touches on nearly every aspect of our lives. But that’s not all. Tax laws also include the lives of our furry friends. That’s right, even your pets can show up in your tax return in surprising ways.

Your pet can be… medicine

You can actually deduct the cost of your pet as a medical expense in the tax code. Dogs in particular are frequently used to provide medical services as guides for the blind, hearing impaired or otherwise physically disabled. The cost of buying, training and maintaining a service animal is deductible. This includes the cost of food, grooming and visits to the vet.

What’s not a deductible medical expense: therapy animals. Dogs and other furry creatures are commonly used in hospitals and other care facilities to lift the spirits of patients. But there’s no tax deduction yet for the service they provide.

Your pet can be… business

You can also deduct the cost of a dog or other pet if you use it in your business. This could be a dog used to guard a location, or even a cat if it is used to control pests like mice and rats. Farmers who use herding dogs can also deduct their animals, and so can animal breeders.

However, when you deduct animals as part of your business they are actually treated like capital equipment. That means you would depreciate the cost of the animal, generally over seven years, just as you would office furniture or other business equipment.

Your pet can be… a hobby

If you make any money on your pet as part of a hobby, you may be able to deduct the cost of buying, training and maintaining your pet. This could be the case if, for example, you win prize money in a dog show. Your pet costs could be a miscellaneous itemized deduction as long as your total miscellaneous costs add up to at least 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Unlike with a business, you can’t deduct losses from your hobby expenses. That means you can only deduct as much as you earn (from pet contests or other activities).

Your pet can be… a sign of home

In a recent court ruling, the CEO of Match.com won his case against the New York tax agency in part because he proved his primary home was where he kept his dog. New York was trying to tax him as a resident because of his New York apartment. He was able to prove that he had moved to Texas because, among other reasons, that’s where his dog was. The move of items “near and dear tend to demonstrate a person’s intention,” the court ruled.