After the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone could use a break on their taxes. Even though pet parenting might feel like a full-time job, you can’t claim pets as dependents on taxes — but you might be able to write off pet expenses if you meet certain criteria, helping to keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket.
Here’s everything you need to know about claiming pet tax deductions in 2022:
- Can you write off pet expenses?
- How can you claim pets on taxes?
- How to claim pets on your tax return
- Key Takeaways
- Frequently Asked Questions
Can you write off pet expenses?
You can claim your pet on your taxes, but only in specific situations that generally apply to service animals and business income. There are different tax deductions for pets you may qualify for, which would allow you to write off pet expenses such as:
- Veterinary bills
- Medical treatment
- Food and supplies
- Training classes
- Grooming services
- Transportation costs
- Boarding fees
- Pet insurance
How can you claim pets on taxes?
Below, are the five most common pet tax deductions you may be eligible for in 2022. Speak with your accountant for the best advice on claiming your pet for tax purposes.
1. Service & Emotional Support Animal Tax Deduction
Most people can’t deduct pet medical expenses on their tax return, but anyone can deduct medical expenses paid during the tax year that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income using Schedule A (Form 1040). Therefore, you may be able to claim pets on your taxes if they help you in a medical capacity or perform certain services.
For example, those who are disabled and rely on a service animal for assistance may be able to claim a dog as a qualified medical expense. You can only write off pet expenses for dogs that perform specific services, like these:
In some cases, you can file your dog on your taxes by claiming an emotional support animal tax deduction. But keep in mind, although every pet may provide emotional support, not all pets qualify as an emotional support animal (ESA), otherwise known as a therapy dog.
To claim your service dog on a tax return, you must be able to prove that your animal helps treat a diagnosed mental or physical need. Be prepared to provide a note from your physician as proof that you require a service or support animal.
2. Tax Deductions for Working Animals
If you’re a business owner, you may be able to get a tax deduction for pets that provide a service for your business. In this case, you’d be claiming a business expense deduction, so you’d have to be able to prove that the cost of keeping your pet is a necessary part of operations.
For example, you might be able to claim a deduction if you rely on a cat to protect your business from pests, or take a deduction for dogs working on your farm to protect livestock from prey.
If you want to claim pets as a business expense, hold on to all your receipts related to their caretaking. Examples of expenses you can write off include food and veterinarian costs. You should also keep a record of how much time the animal spends at your business.
3. Tax Deductions for Performance Animals
If your pets perform in some way that earns you income, you may be able to claim them (and their related costs) as a business expense. For example, some people ride horses as a hobby, but if you perform by riding a horse and make an income from it, the IRS might consider the cost of caring for that horse as a qualified business expense.
If your dog appears in commercials, television shows, movies, or print advertisements, they could also be considered part of a business venture. The same could be true if your cat is the star of your monetized YouTube channel, in which case they may qualify for influencer tax write-offs.
Just be sure to keep accurate records of every expense related to your pet and the activity that earns income. This might include the money you spend on monthly pet insurance premiums as a means to protect your business investment.
4. Fostered Pet Deduction
If you foster animals, you might be able to get a tax break on your income return. Every expense made on caring for foster animals could be deducted as charitable donations, so long as the animals are from a qualified nonprofit organization.
Most nonprofits will pay for the cost of food and veterinary care for the animals you foster, but any necessity you pay for out-of-pocket is a tax-deductbile pet expense.
If you volunteer at animal shelters or rescue organizations, you may be able to deduct fuel costs, so keep track of your mileage. Note that this pet tax deduction only applies to driving done in service to the organization’s mission, not to your commute.
5. Tax-Deductible Moving Expenses For Pets
Finally, you may be able to claim pet expenses on taxes if you spent money transferring them to a new home in 2021. However, you can only write off pet expenses related to moves that meet certain conditions established by the IRS:
- The move must closely relate to the start of work.
- Your new primary job location must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your previous job location.
- After the move, you must work full-time at your new job for at least 39 weeks the first year.
How to claim pets on your tax return
In order to claim your dog or cat on a tax return, rather than taking a standard deduction, you’ll need to write off pet expenses as itemized deductions.
Standard Deduction vs. Itemized Deduction
When most people file their taxes, they take the standard deduction, a pre-set number (updated annually) that the IRS allows you to deduct from your taxable income without any questions asked. When filing in 2022 for the 2021 tax year, the standard tax deduction that you can claim based on your filing status is:
- Married filing jointly - $25,100
- Married filing separately - $12,550
- Single - $12,550
- Head of household - $18,800
Alternatively, you can also itemize deductions by adding up the dollar amount of each qualified expense in 2021. That’s how you can claim pets on taxes, including their vet bills, pet insurance, food supplies, and more. Just remember to keep receipts on record to support every pet expense you claim, as well as proof that your pet is tax deductible, to safeguard against an IRS audit.
However, if all of your itemized deductions from the 2021 tax year don’t amount to much, you’re probably better off taking the standard deduction versus claiming your pet on a return.
If you think the amount that you can write off in pet expenses (in addition to all other tax deductions you may qualify for) is greater than the standard deduction, then it’s worth calculating the total amount, so you can get the biggest tax break possible. We recommend talking to a professional for help.
- The IRS allows pet-related tax deductions for those who meet specific qualifying criteria.
- If you have a pet that works in service or industry, or you work with a charitable organization, this may apply to your tax return.
- It's best to consult with a tax professional who can determine your eligibility before claiming deductions for pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a pet a dependent?
No, pets are not considered dependents for tax purposes.
What are common pet expenses you can write off on a tax return?
Veterinary bills, pet insurance, food, supplies, training, grooming, boarding, and transportation costs are all examples of pet expenses you can write off on taxes. However, you can only claim pets on taxes if they meet certain criteria, such as contributing to income or serving a medical need. Talk to a professional to see if you can file your dog or cat on your taxes.
Are pet medical expenses tax-deductible?
Yes, pet medical expenses are tax-deductible for pets that are classified as service animals or working animals. You might also be able to claim vet bills on taxes for pets you foster, provided that the nonprofit organization you work for is registered with the IRS and has not reimbursed you for the service.
If you’re looking for a way to get reimbursed for your family pet’s medical expenses, pet insurance is a great tool that can help reduce veterinary expenses in the future.
Are there any pet deductions people are surprised to hear that they can't take?
Most of the pet deductions people typically think of — such as claiming vet bills on taxes or writing off pet insurance — are actually eligible write-offs for those that qualify. However, many taxpayers are surprised to find they can’t claim a pet on a tax return due to the classification of the animal, or lack of sufficient proof required to support the pet deduction. Others are surprised to learn that you can’t claim pets as dependents on taxes.
What kind of proof do people need to show that they have a service animal or a working animal?
For services animals, the The IRS explains that the animal will likely have to be trained and/or certified to help treat a diagnosed illness or condition — and you may need a doctor's note describing the medical necessity. For a working animal, you'll likely have to prove that the animal is "ordinary and necessary" in your line of business.
Does a "pet influencer" count under any of those categories?
Always check with a tax professional, but it looks like if your dog or cat is the star of a monetized YouTube channel, for example, they might be classified as a performance animal. In which case expenses related to your pet and the activity that earns income could be eligible for influencer tax write-offs.
When might people want to write off pet expenses as itemized tax deductions?
Always consult a tax professional, but generally, people determine if their itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction amount before deciding to itemize.
What kind of pet-related moving expenses would be tax-deductible?
If you had to move for work, those moving expenses (including any involved in transporting your pet) could be eligible for a deduction, such as professional carrier services, transportable crates, lodging fees, etc.
What are other tips for how a pet owner might save money on pet-related expenses?
Two big ones. (1) Preventive/routine care appointments play a major role in helping health issues before they get too expensive, so please schedule regular vet appointments. (2) Pet insurance is a great way to hedge the financial risk of unexpected accidents, illnesses, and emergencies — and there are no health networks to worry about. Pet insurance can reimburse you for up to 100% or more of the vet bill after your annual deductible is met, which can be a literal life (and wallet) saver, as serious health issues can easily cost thousands to treat.