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Make Fido and Fluffy deductible?

A bill in Congress would let owners deduct the costs of pet care. The Tax Court has ruled in favor of a charitable deduction for foster cats, but there are no breaks for pets so far.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 3, 2012 8:11PM

This post is by Robert W. Wood of Forbes.com.

 

Are you getting tax benefits from your pets? Probably not, and the IRS is unlikely to help. But Congress might. A proposed bill would allow tax deductions for pets even though they can’t be claimed as dependents like people.

 

The bill, H.R. 3501introduced as the "Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years" (aka HAPPY) Act, would allow deductions of up to $3,500 a year for pet expenses. It was introduced by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., and co-sponsored by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.

 

Help for people with pet expenses is not a new idea, but the HAPPY Act is at least a serious -- though so far unsuccessful -- effort. But is it going anywhere? It seems doubtful, perhaps little more than wishful thinking.

 

Introduced initially in 2009, HAPPY has languished in Congress despite endorsements by the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Law Coalition, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

 

The bill limits tax benefits to true pets, not business animals. Excluded are research animals and animals involved in a trade or business, such as farm animals that have been the subject of another type of tax deduction within the preceding three years. The law as proposed would not be limited to small animals or to any particular types of animal. (Post continues after video.)

"Qualified pet care expenses" would include food and veterinary costs, but exclude the cost of acquiring the pet. Whether your pets are rescues or expensive purebreds, you probably love them like members of the family. And that should mean tax deductions, shouldn’t it?

 

You can’t mention this topic without crowing about Cat Lady Goes To Tax Court, the big Tax Court decision that could embolden legions of animal lovers. Disagreeing with the Internal Revenue Service, the Tax Court upheld the cat lady’s charitable contribution deduction for unreimbursed monies she laid out to care for a passel of cats -- sometimes 70 or 80 -- in her 1,400-square-foot home. Although she had seven pet (personal) cats, too, the Tax Court said 90% of her veterinary and pet supply expenses and 50% of her cleaning supply and utility expenses were for the foster cats.  That meant charitable contribution deductions.

 

For most of us, though, we’ll probably have to wait until Congress changes the law.

 

More from Forbes.com and MSN Money:

 

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

47Comments
Apr 4, 2012 3:21PM
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I know a lot of people will say "it's just a stupid animal, give me a break." But to a lot of people they really ARE like family and may be all they have. Also, far too many animals are dumped at high kill shelters, or, in the case of far too many cats, on the street, because their owners are no longer able to afford to keep them. Then people complain about the feral/stray cat "problem".  Killing them is a horrible non-answer to the problem. If the oil companies making billions of dollars in profit a year can be given a tax break, poor working stiffs should get one too. It's saving a life, whether or not many feel it's worth it.
Apr 4, 2012 5:18PM
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I don't want to have human children, so my animals are my kids.  It is unfair to make that decision and to have to bear the costs of everything related to my "children", meanwhile people who have human children get tax breaks for having them - the more the marrier.  Public Assistance - the more kids the more money you get... Not to mention you don't have to spend tax payers dollars to send fido to school!  Doesn't seem fair.

Apr 4, 2012 6:57PM
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Think about it. A person can go to jail from animal abuse or anything associated with animal cruelty, just as a person would with children. A tax break is given for children, why not animals? We feed them, train them and even treat them as our own children. Your damn right we should get a tax break on animals!
Apr 4, 2012 4:48PM
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I have a dog and a disability.  My dog is more for companionship than anything.  I could have her certified as a service dog but what good would that do?  I could have a child to have a tax write off.  That isn't a necessity either.  But I have to pay to help educate other people's children but I don't get a tax break for that.  I get shots for my dog so she doesn't spread disease but yet no tax break.  I got her spayed to help control the pet population and still no tax write off.  Pet owners help fuel the economy.  We buy food, toys and other things specifically for pets.  But yet having a pet is a luxury.  Considering the fact that not everyone is able to reproduce, why aren't kids a luxury.  Oh because people that can't afford them still have them.
Apr 4, 2012 3:37PM
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Hey GlennB, children aren't necessary either.  They are a choice.  I have to pay taxes to educate your children (assuming you have them) why can't I get a break on it in the same ire as the child care deduction?
Apr 4, 2012 3:27PM
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I feel that this is a great idea...if you can deduct kids well then why not deduct for animals???  I'm an animal rights person so of course I would feel this way. Hey look...talk about waste of $$, I was in the grocery store the other day and there was a woman in line who paid with food stamps which is fine but...when she reached in her pocket to get them, she took out a wad of $$ that I couldn't believe. That's a waste. AND...she was not  even an American.  So..think about it...WASTE OF TAX $$

Apr 4, 2012 3:51PM
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All of my children has paws!!! and that is all I have to say about that
Apr 4, 2012 6:49PM
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This should absolutley be allowed.  My husband and I were unable to have children, so my two cats are my substitute children. I have paid "dependent" costs for them for over 8 years. One of them had kidney failure in 2011 and after paying over $1,000 in vet bills with proposed treatment of over $800 per day to keep her alive, I had to make the painful decision to put her to sleep because I couldn't afford to keep her alive, tax break or not.   Yet I live in a neighborhood with a mostly hispanic community and when I go grocery shopping I see young mothers with 5 or more kids all under the ages of 10 hanging off the shopping cart.  Are those the many you are referring to Glenn B?  Why should I be punished because I couldn't have a one child  but still cover major costs for my pets, and yet I still pay taxes for people to have too many?  There should be a flat tax based on income only, then more sales tax if you want to spend your money on whatever it is you want to buy.  Simplify and get rid of all the b.s.
Apr 4, 2012 4:30PM
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Some people say a pet is just a luxury, ha!!  What about the medical profession that says a pet can help reduce stress?   My dogs are not a luxury, they are my family.  They make me feel better when I am depressed or just plain stressed.  They help me get exercise by taking them for a walk.  Yes they can be the cause of some stress, like when they get sick, but don't other things cause more stress, like the price of food ( now that has become a luxury to some of us), kids when they decide that parents aren't as smart as they are so they do whatever they want to, the price of gas,  how the utility companies keep raising their rates, etc.  I can go into a room with my dogs and relax by just petting them and getting the love from them to help me calm down.  I don't call that a luxury,  I call that a lifesaver.  So yes,  I think there should be a credit.Cat faceDog face
Apr 4, 2012 7:01PM
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My dog is trained so well she is smarter and more useful than a lot of humans, and a better citizen too.  Pet owners should be allowed a deduction.  Pets give us the will to live long enough to pay taxes, why not give us a tax break for our little four-legged lifesavers.  Cats and horses too.
Apr 4, 2012 7:27PM
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I have PTSD and for the past 4 years my dog has help me tremendously. I'm an Iraqi war veternan and sometimes my dog helps get through the day and keeps me company when I feel lonely.

 

I should be able to claim on my taxes, as a matter fact I think we should DEMAND IT!

Apr 4, 2012 4:02PM
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As a pet owner I think it would be a great idea. The one thing I would say is that if you have kids and a pet then you could not deduct for a pet. But my wife and i have no kids and our pets (2 dogs & 2 cats) are our children. But I have read some people saying that having pets is a luxury and they may be right in some small way. But in some cases there are people out there that can not have kids or don't want kids. And come on, be honest kids can cost a hell of a lot more then a pet. I do not think you should get a lot of money back but some money could help on the medical treatment of your pets since there is no real pet insurance.
Apr 4, 2012 4:49PM
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I have 2 dogs and 3 horses, I think that a deduction of a set amount per pet would be great, yes it is a luxury but as someone else said they do help with easing stresses, blood pressure and are just wonderful to have around in general. However there should be limits to avoid people falling into animal hoarding and abuse. You should need to show receipts for care and as well get an additional deduction for spaying or neutering as well as licensing for dogs. I have a purebred that is not neutered due to he will eventually be in the show ring, but this would help stop backyard (puppy mills) from profiting for having all the animals. There should also be a maximum number for deducting to help with this problem. There just needs to be a lot of thought into the pros and cons of a pet deduction.  
Apr 4, 2012 6:55PM
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OMG this would really be great........Please make this happening!!!!!!!!!!
Apr 4, 2012 4:19PM
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Pets can be a luxary but also at the same time they can be life savers.  My son has a service dog for medical purposes.  How many prisons are training dogs for that very reason.  I had gotten a dog for companionship since I live alone.  What I did not realize I also have my life saver.  She has brought my out of my depression... no drugs needed.  Just a 4 legged child to care for and come home to.  I would welcome a little bit of a tax break for her care (medical expenses).  Those who have service dogs deserve the same break.  So yes I am all for a tax break for pets.
Apr 4, 2012 7:20PM
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Definately, a tax deduction  should be allowed for pets!   I have spent so much money on my pets and fostered pets -  maybe more people would be able to afford to keep their pets in these tough times rather than give them up to shelters - home is a better place for pets.  Allowing a tax deduction could eliminate the problem of overcrowded animal shelters and overcrowded foster homes like mine - I am struggling financially myself and don't know how long i can keep fostering - the pets would be bettter off in their old homes or new ones - many people don't have pets and want them or give up their pets because they can't afford them anymore!  This is a great idea - please help the animals and the people who love them and solve an ever-growing problem of overcrowded shelters and homeless pets.
Apr 4, 2012 6:45PM
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Wouldn't that be great!  And don't forget horses!
Apr 4, 2012 3:47PM
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How about we get Congress to overhaul our sick tax code and get rid of all deductions? We could benefit as a country more with everyone paying their fair share than having more lobbying going on, even for the pet industry. Sure I'd like to deduct the care for my 5 cats (no children), but a lobbyist is still a lobbyist, regardless of who pays their salary. I'm sick of special interest groups bending the lawmakers in their direction by plying them with cash (donations)!   
Apr 4, 2012 3:51PM
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All of my children has paws!!! and that is all I have to say about that
Apr 4, 2012 4:18PM
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That would be nice....if it happen. Everything help.
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