There’s very little that most people wouldn’t do for their furry friends.
But considering that pet expenses can get costly — the average dog owner spends about $1,200 a year on their pet and the average cat owner spends $687 — it makes sense to save money where you can. That’s especially true if your pet has major health issues.
One way you might be able to lower your expenses is by taking pet-related tax deductions. Unfortunately, you can’t claim pets as dependents or put them on your insurance, but you may be able to write off some expenses depending on the role they play in your life.
“It comes down to how the animal is classified and having the proof you need to claim the deductions,” said Edwin Plotts, head of growth at Pawlicy Advisor, a pet insurance marketplace.
To get any of the five animal-related deductions below, you have to itemize your taxes. Whether that makes sense depends on if your total deductible expenses are above the standard deduction amount of $12,550 for single-filers and $25,100 for joint filers.
If you’re blind, deaf, use a wheelchair, have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or one of several other disabilities, and you rely on a guide dog or service animal for help, you could be eligible for several tax deductions.
You might be able to deduct expenses for food, training, grooming, and veterinary costs, Plotts said. You should be able to deduct any expenses above 7.5% of your adjusted gross income that are related to the animal helping you in a medical capacity.
It’s not enough, though, that your pet gives you comfort. There are specific criteria they must meet.
“The animal will have to be trained or certified as treatment for a diagnosed illness or condition," Plotts said. "You might also need a doctor’s note describing the medical necessity."
You can see how the IRS classifies service animals here.
Guard dogs and pest-control cats
If your family pet also works in the family business — say as a guard dog or as a pest-control cat — you might be able to deduct expenses like food and vet care.
But be prepared to “prove that the animal is ordinary and necessary in your line of business,” Plotts said. And no matter how fierce your Chihuahua might be, size and breed do come into play for guard dog approval.
To help get these deductions, keep good records of the time your pet spends at your business and any expenses you incur while they are there.
Hobby turned business
Pet-related hobbies like dog shows are no longer tax deductible, but if a hobby has suddenly turned into a real business, that’s on the table.
Maybe those cute cat videos you post on a monetized YouTube channel have really taken off or your pet has become a star on the advertising scene. Keep track of your pet-related expenses and income the same way you would your own income and expenses.
Money you spend caring for foster animals is considered a charitable donation if it’s for a qualified nonprofit. Most animal shelters will cover the costs of food and medical expenses for the pets people foster, but anything you’re not reimbursed for could potentially qualify. Just be sure to track all your expenses and keep receipts.
Pet-related moving expenses
It used to be that if you had to move due to work, you could deduct some of your qualified moving expenses, even for your pet. Those deductions, though, were eliminated for everyone except military members starting with tax year 2018.
That doesn’t mean you're totally out of luck. A few states, including California, still allow moving deductions on your state taxes if you meet certain criteria. Check with your state to see if you qualify.
Read more information and tips in our Taxes section