Can I Claim My Dog as a Dependent?

How much is that doggie in the tax window? Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, chances are you consider your furry BFF a member of the family. But does the IRS feel the same way?

Sadly, no. Your canine, feline, or bearded dragon still cannot be claimed as a dependent on your 2018 return. But there are some animal-related deductions available under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And in light of so many personal deductions being eliminated, it’s a good idea to know what these deductions are if you have animal companions.

In all situations, record keeping is key. Working dog? Keep track of its hours just as you would a human employee. Moving for your job? Keep records of expenses related to moving your best friend. Service animal? Obtain correct documentation from trainers and medical professionals. Claiming your dog or cat as an “emotional support animal”, for example, can be hard to prove.

Remember the burden is always on you, the taxpayer, to provide any documentation required. And don’t hesitate to call a qualified tax professional for help in determining exactly what deductions you qualify for, and what documentation you’ll need to claim them. We’ll never “paws” when it comes to helping you obtain every deduction you’re entitled to.

My dog is a service animal… really!

This cannot be claimed without proof. Nearly all of us animal lovers think of our furry family members as “service animals.” To be legally considered a service animal, the dog must be trained to do work or perform tasks for a disabled individual that the individual might not be able to complete on his or her own. Categories of service dogs are: Severe Allergy Alert Dog, Autism Assistance Dog, Brace/Mobility Support Dog, Diabetic Alert Dog, Hearing Dog, Medical Alert Dog, Medical Assistance Dog, Psychiatric Service Dog, Seizure Response Dog, Visual Assistance Dog, and Wheelchair Assistance Dog.

Many families with a disabled member have service dogs. In the face of mounting medical and other expenses, it’s important to know that you can deduct expenses related to the service animal’s purchase, training, food, grooming and veterinary care if you itemize deductions – and, if for 2017 and 2018 your aggregate medical expenses exceed the threshold of 7.5% of adjusted gross income. For the 2019 tax year, this threshold reverts to the previous 10 percent of AGI.

Pet expenses can be deductions if you’ve moved.

Did you change jobs? If you are relocating for your work, and meet a couple of tests that may apply, you can include the cost of moving your dog, cat or other pet from your old home to your new home. This tax deduction is claimed under the “personal effects” category. It includes all costs of moving your pet, including food consumed during the move. However, if you travel for work and need to board your dog or cat, you still cannot deduct the cost of boarding your pet in a kennel while away.

Cats can be working animals too!

Guard dogs and animals used for pest control for your business are deductions. Good news for cat owners: this includes your cat(s) if they’re used for rodent control. Make sure you have proper documentation that the animal is used for your business and itemize all deductions. If your dog or cat is an extra or animal actor in the film industry, this also qualifies as a business tax deduction and can be used to offset income the animal earns. Keep thorough records of your pet’s “working hours” in the office, on the movie set, or in the field. Like other business deductions, your pet’s value is determined and written off as a cost over a period of time for tax purposes.

Fostering animals – good for the soul and your taxes.
Becoming a foster pet parent is a wonderful way to give back. You’re giving a deserving animal at least a temporary home, plus training for a future permanent home and loving family. And you’re giving a real gift to overburdened shelters by opening up a space at the shelter for another animal in need. And if you work with a qualified 501(c)(3) organization, expenses may be deducted as a charitable contribution. These include veterinarian visits, supplies, food and related expenses. You should also keep track of your mileage for any trips made on behalf of the organization.

Donations to animal welfare organizations and shelters.

Animal welfare organizations are running on overdrive in the wake of 2017 and 2018’s many disasters, from flooding in the east to the fires in the west. While adoption fees are not tax deductible, donations unrelated to your adopting a companion animal are deductible. Some expenses for volunteer work you may do at a shelter are deductible too. But as always, keep receipts, letters and other records to document your deduction claim.