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Should Dogs Be Tax-Deductible?

Img_0827In a letter dated April 4, 2007, a citizen of Bayport NY wrote to Congress proposing a new law that would allow taxpayers to claim dogs as dependents. Read it.

The letter writer and her husband do not have children "because [they] cannot afford to have children living on Long Island." They chose the next best thing, apparently: dogs. They have two dogs they adopted from a shelter who are older and need a lot of medical care.

Because the dogs depend on their owners, the letter writer thinks she should be able to declare that dependence on her taxes and take deductions for "routine exams, medicines, and/or emergency care." She writes, "Anything would be of great assistance to pet owners."

My weekly Congess.org update said the following:

Preliminary results are 49% in favor of making pets tax deductible like dependents. One person says it will make us treat them better. Someone else replied that once they evolve to being potential taxpayers then maybe we can reconsider.  One citizen told Congress pets are a choice like children and cost nearly as much. But one person opposed felt that some would get more dogs just for the tax break…like some do with children.

You can send a message to Congress in response (there’s a page/form for those who think dogs should be tax-deductible and one for those who think they shouldn’t).

Before you craft your response, let’s deconstruct:

  • Violet (above) has cost my husband and me well over $15,000 in two years. The funny thing is that she would have died without the care we provided, yet her owner/breeder was allowed to "discard" her when she fell ill (from pancreatitis due to injectable steroids to make her perform better). I mention this because it is the most clear example of the following: Dogs are property, and the property status of dogs makes it possible to abuse, neglect, discard, exploit them, as their value as commodities comes from the benefits their owners can enjoy. So Violet’s owner (a man in North Carolina) had no obligation to pay for the treatment of her pancreatitis or make sure someone else did. She was merely a profit mechanism for him, and when she failed to profit, he got rid of her. That is perfectly legal. I doubt that if he could get the deduction he would have kept Violet, as a cost-benefit analysis would most certainly not have been in favor of trying to fix and maintain a broken machine when he had so many others that weren’t broken.
  • This is yet another example of people wanting to benefit from the property status of animals. The proposed law would help people, as the writer says. She is looking for "assistance" for pet owners.
  • I like that the letter writer realized she couldn’t afford to have children on Long Island. I wish more people thought of that before they had children. However, if she really wanted children there are about 46 less expensive states to live in. New York isn’t known for its reasonable real estate prices or taxes.
  • I don’t like that she makes it sound like dogs were Plan B, and she was forced to adopt the dogs because her Plan A (kids) was out of the question. It’s as if she now wants to be rewarded for making what she thought was a more fiscally responsible decision (that backfired). Please note that if she bought purebreeds this post would be much shorter because there is absolutely no excuse to ever purchase a purebreed. If you want one, go to a shelter, as 25% of shelter dogs are purebreeds who were "discarded."

The writer wants her dogs to be treated as dependents, but her language is wrong. What she really wants is to deduct the cost of maintaining her property. That’s not the same thing. What her request really does is underscore the property status of the dogs, and property status is the problem.

I’m not an accountant, but I have written or edited dozens of books on personal finance, and I can say that most costs of maintenance of property are NOT tax-deductible. However, if you make improvements to your property that increase its value, under some circumstances those are deductible. Unfortunately, the value of the letter writer’s dogs is what she paid for them. And dogs aren’t one of the types of property that increase in value, no matter what you do to them.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. If taxpayers were ever able to deduct the costs of caring for pets, I'd like to see the deductions go to adopted animals only. Perhaps this would encourage adoptions as opposed to sales.

    April 17, 2007
  2. Mike Grieco #

    Now here is a Greyhound who is in his/her "Glory"…Great Pic:)

    April 29, 2007

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