Tax Time: Accounting for Furry Dependents

Posted by Pia

As Uncle Sam comes-a-callin' this time of year, I decided to enlist my accountant and fellow animal lover Mary Tonden to share some priceless pet-related tax tips with you.

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Animal loving accountant, Mary Tonden playing co-diva with her diva angel Ginger! Rescued from the Shelter in 2002.  Mary says,

1 Animal loving accountant, Mary Tonden playing co-diva with her diva angel Ginger! Rescued from the Shelter in 2002. Mary says, "She is my best bud!"

Shadow and Ben

2 Shadow and Ben "The shelter labeled us as wild and aggressive! We were set to be euthanized until mama saved us! Do we look feral to you???"


3 O'Shea "I was my mama's FIRST foster!!! The shelter said I was feral just cause I was scared! I'm not scared anymore and love cuddling and kisses :)"

Ginger and Danny

4 Ginger and Danny "Gingie may be a diva, but she LOVES kittens!!!!!"


5 Sean "I was dumped at the shelter with my momma and my 5 brothers!!"

Tibetan boys

6 Tibetan boys "We were dumped at the shelter at only three weeks old!!! They had so many kitties already that they were going to kill us without even giving us a chance to be adopted! We are soooo happy THAT didn't happened!!!"


7 Jakers "I was alone at the shelter weighing over 23lbs!!! I am sooo glad I made it out! I LOVE people more than anything!!!"

To all you tax-paying animal lovers out there,

I can’t tell you how many clients ask me if they can claim their beloved pooch or kitty as a tax deduction. Unfortunately, until our pets get their own social security numbers, all the kibble in the world will not lower our tax liability. That said, here are several ways your love for our furry legged (or feathered or gilled) friends can pay off at tax time. Remember to check with your tax preparer to make sure these tips apply to your particular situation.

Give Money: Any cash donation you make to a qualified charitable organization is tax deductible for those who itemize deductions (ask you accountant if this is you!) Don’t know if your favorite rescue fits the bill? Check out IRS Publication 78 for more information on qualifying organizations.

Give Stuff: Local animal shelters need your newspaper, old towels, sheets, pet beds, sweaters, crates and blankets. They may also be looking for items such as digital cameras, video recorders, printers, fans, heaters, cleaning supplies, office equipment, printer paper, carpeting, and furniture. You can also purchase and donate new items including food, toys, new litter boxes, dog beds, and cat trees.

Even if your donation isn't useful to the shelter itself, they might be able to use it to raise funds. The value of items donated can be a tax deduction! Again, assuming they are a qualified organization, you can deduct the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution, so keep track of what you give and when, and be sure to save the receipts of those newly purchased items.

Give Your Time: While you typically cannot deduct the value of your time, you can deduct mileage traveling to and from the shelter or rescue. For 2010, the IRS allows a deduction of 14 cents per mile driven in service of a charitable organization. Keep a notebook in your car to track mileage, or use an iPhone or Android app such as Mileage Pad.

Partner with an Organization: If you are providing a service such as trap, neuter, return (TNR), or ongoing food and medical care for a colony of cats in your area, find a registered non-profit animal rescue to affiliate with and have them write a letter to document your charitable work to the IRS. As a result, your out-of-pocket expenses may be deductible.

Make It a Business Expense: There are some instances in which caring for animals is a legitimate business expense. If you own a business or farm, properly caring for, sterilizing, and feeding a few feral cats can be a green way to manage a rodent population or simply a way to keep them away from your inventory. Ditto for a guard dog. (Be sure he is being paid with love and shelter too!)

Foster an Animal in Need: This is a great alternative for those who aren't in a position to take on a pet of their own. You can deduct many of the costs you incur  including food, veterinary expenses, cleaning products, medications and supplies. Just be sure to ask the organization for a letter stating that you are a registered foster and keep it in your tax file.

Keep in mind, the smallest gesture can brighten the life of an animal in need!

And if you keep meticulous track of all that you do, you might just find yourself with a fatter refund!

Mary Grace Tonden, Tonden & Associates
Accountant/Cat Lover

Thanks Mary for such great info!
In kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

Comments (6)

  • Good Morning Ms. Mary

    Thanks for the tax tips. My mom always says she wishes she could write off our medical expenses. She is one of those over protective mom's and with 4 dogs those bills can be very high. Especially my 2 sister Lab's, they both had ACL surgery and that cost a pretty penny.

    I must tell you that even though I'm not a fan of furballs those kitty pictures sure are cute.


  • Hello Ms. Mary & Dr. Pia,
    Mom and Dad sure do wish they could get me a social security number to claim me, but they say the next dog they will get pet medical insurance. It was too late by the time they heard about it with me--pre-existing condition thing and all. Mom still bakes her dog biscuits and donates all money to her choice of rescues etc. for that year. I am just going to take it easy today. With my specialist appointment yesterday they did alot of poking and so forth and we have to switch up my meds. Mom has to have one of those pill organizers like old, old, people have for me. But the doc says with the switch in meds I should be great and operating at full speed in no time. Have a great day all!!!
    Love & licks,

  • Thank You Mary Tonden, great information here, also for saving your cat Ginger's life, and Thank You to all those that are shown here today.

    I wish there would be a tax deduction for saving an animals life from a shelter, maybe that would encourage someone to adopt...after all it is like a donation.

    But when you come down to donating, it should come from the heart and be for the purpose of enriching/helping/saving someones life, whether animal or human, the tax deduction should be an after thought...but then that's just me! :)

  • Hi Dr. Pia, Thanks for all of that terrific info from Mary Tonden about how to help all wonderful animals and maybe get tax relief. Sure hope more amd more people will read your blog post and do what they can to help our animals. These photos are just darling! Those kitties are absolutely fantastic and so lucky to get caring homes! Have a great day everyone! Jan

  • A very timely posst that reminded me that I did 2 rescue transports last year and donated some kibble and gave a check for a fundraiser to an local rescue group. I need to calculate those and add them to my deductions.

  • Thank you so much for all the wonderful and helpful information, Mary! This is a great blog, with so many ideas of how to help, and benefit from doing what's right. I know a lot of people must feel(as I did) that to be able to help or donate just wouldn't be possible, in hard times. After reading all the quick, non expensive ways to help I'm sure people everywhere will come forward and do what they can! Looking forward to hearing more from you, with tips, and I'll definitely be looking you up for tax help in the future!

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