Veterinary bills can be tax deductible, but it depends on the animal that is being treated and its relationship to you. In general, veterinary bills are not tax deductible for most animals that are classified as pets. However, you can obtain tax deductions for veterinary treatment for animals that are service or business animals or that you are temporarily watching for charitable reasons.
Veterinary Care for Pets
You cannot deduct the expenses from the veterinary bills for your pets if that is their sole role. In 2009, U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter introduced a bill to amend the federal income tax code to allow for pet owners to deduct up to $3,500 in a calendar year for veterinary bill expenses. The bill, which was called the Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years (HAPPY) Act, attracted media attention, but the proposed legislation was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, where it has remained without action.
You can claim tax deductions on expenses such as vet bills if they are made to benefit a service animal, such as a guide dog. These animals are trained to provide support for visually or hearing impaired individuals and for those with certain physical disabilities. You can claim vet bills if the care is for a service animal that you own or that you are keeping and training to prepare for service. If you own the animal, obtain documentation from a medical professional that you need it for service. If you train the animal, keeping a log of training activities and taking a public access test from Assistance Dogs International are ways of providing evidence of the animal's purpose.
Veterinary care for animals that are used for business purposes can be claimed as tax deductions if they can be shown to be part of the "necessary and ordinary" cost of maintaining your business, according to the Wall Street Journal. These expenses should be noted and claimed annually the same way as other business expenses that are claimed, such as the cost of gas for travel related to your business. The types of animals that might be eligible for this deduction include dogs that are used to guard a business from intruders and livestock that are part of a farming operation.
A 2011 court case pitting a volunteer who hosted a number of foster animals against the Internal Revenue Service resulted in expanding opportunities for deductions for animal care expenses. Before the case, volunteers hosting foster pets could not get tax relief for the personal financial investment that they made in the animals. After the volunteer won her case, though, foster animals became eligible as causes for deductions. Volunteers who are fostering animals for a registered nonprofit organization can deduct expenses related to the care of the animals, including not only vet bills, but the cost of food and other necessary expenses. These expenses should be claimed as a charitable-gift deduction.
- Internal Revenue Service: Veterinary Fees
- Internal Revenue Service: Guide Dog or Other Service Animal
- Pawesome: Pet Fostering is Tax Deductible!
- Wall Street Journal: Unleashing Tax Deductions for Your Pets
- HobbyFarms.com: Deductible Expenses for Farmers
- United States Service Dog Registry: Is the Cost of Training a Service Dog Tax Deductible?
- Tax This!: Assistance Dogs and Tax Deductions
- Detroit News; U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter Proposes Tax Break for Pet Owners
Tom Gresham is a freelance writer and public relations specialist who has been writing professionally since 1999. His articles have appeared in "The Washington Post," "Virginia Magazine," "Vermont Magazine," "Adirondack Life" and the "Southern Arts Journal," among other publications. He graduated from the University of Virginia.