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Deducting expenses for pets: Is it ever allowed?

The tax code allows for many different types of deductions, including home mortgage interest, charitable contributions and many more.

All of these deductions seek, in various ways, to encourage some form of desirable social activity.

What about deductions for taking care of pets? Are there circumstances in which a deduction could be allowed? In this post, we will address that question.

Generally there is no tax deduction for taking care of pets. To be sure, many people consider pets to be part of the family. But unlike young children, there is no tax exemption for contributing to their care.

There can be situations, however, in which contributing to the care of pets could be considered a charitable expense – and therefore allow for a tax deduction.

A few years ago, the Tax Court considered a case in which a taxpayer had incurred significant expenses in fostering feral cats. The taxpayer volunteered for a charitable organization. Her volunteering included trapping cats, getting them neutered. She also provided medical care for the cats before releasing them to return to the wild.

When the taxpayer tried to deduct her out-of-pocket expenses as a charitable contribution, the IRS challenged the deduction. The IRS asserted that the expenses were personal, not charitable.

But the Tax Court ruled that a charitable deduction for pet care is legitimate in these circumstances. The caveat is that the deduction is allowable only to the extent that the taxpayer can document the expenses.

So yes, the costs of caring for a pet can sometimes be deducted as charitable expenses. But as with other charitable contributions, they must be documented.

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