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A tax deduction -- for your pet

Michigan Republican proposes new tax break

By Karen Datko Sep 14, 2009 10:05PM
Is this an idea whose time has come? A new bill in the U.S. House would allow pet owners to deduct up to $3,500 for "qualified pet-care expenses" for household pets, including vet bills.

 

Would the so-called HAPPY (Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years) Act give pet owners a break they deserve? Would it encourage more people to adopt abandoned or neglected pets? Would we finally be able to list some dependents on our income tax return? (Others have attempted -- unsuccessfully -- to use their pets as deductions.)

Bing: New tax deductions

Actually, the bill has some serious goals, according to PetWellbeing.com, including:

  • Making it more affordable for people to provide the care their pets need.
  • Making it less likely that pet owners are who suffering during the recession will abandon their pets. 

"Qualified pet expenses" appears to include a wide variety of undefined things involved in providing care, with the exception of acquisition costs. Thus, the adoption fee at the pound would not be included. But would you get a tax break for the grooming session that includes nail polish for FiFi, or every can of Fancy Feast or each new toy? Or how about the little castle you buy for the fish tank?

 

The bill was introduced by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., who has taken a ribbing. "You might also think that Mr. McCotter would have more important issues on his mind. For instance, the unemployment rate in his home state of Michigan is 15.2%," Howard Gleckman wrote at TaxVox.

 

The humorous "individual pet tax return" linked to at TaxVox suggests that pet owners also get a pet damage credit for things like dog throw-up or other deposits on the carpet, or mauled furniture.

 

Kathy at Blogging For Michigan also notes that people can deduct expenses for their own medical care only if those costs exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income, so the bill would give your pet's medical bills better tax treatment than your own.

 

"I'm all for responsible pet ownership, but I also think people should maintain the brakes on their car so I don't have to worry about getting rear-ended while I'm stopped at a traffic light," Kathy wrote in a mocking tone. "Maybe we should give car owners tax deductions for repairs."

 

We love our dogs, but we think this is kind of silly. Sure, pets have gained more legal rights in the last decade or so, and aren't simply property that you can treat any way you want. Thank goodness for that. But a tax deduction? We can imagine all kinds of problems, including how this would be enforced.

 

Cindi, a reader of For the Love of the Dog Blog, also said she loves her dogs but "this legislation is ridiculous. A lot of our human citizens don't even have basic health insurance ...." (Certain tax breaks are available for people who have guide dogs or other service dogs and those who provide foster care for animals in collaboration with nonprofit groups.)

 

How about this idea? If you can't afford the real cost of pet ownership, don't get one.

 

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council  supports the bill. On the other hand, the From the Dean blog at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine said about the HAPPY Act:

I will mostly let this pass without comment, although in spite of the importance of our cats to my family, my recognition of the changing role of companion animals in society, and my involvement in this profession, I am still taking a bit of a sideways glance at this.

Related reading:

Published Aug. 17, 2009

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