Each year, people cringe as tax season approaches. Whether you’re getting a refund or devastatingly emptying your wallet, there’s one thing we can all agree on. The paperwork is a nightmare–unless you love that, then bless your heart. Each year new laws go into effect, making understanding what counts as a potential deduction into an absolute scavenger hunt. Written in hieroglyphs. But here’s a clue for shelter volunteers to get your “2019 tax deductibles hunt” started on a positive note. Or should I say “pawsitive”? Whether they have paws or not, you may be able to claim your foster pet related expenses!
This is not something that is new this year, but is due to one dedicated fur parent who took on the Internal Revenue Service in 2011.
The case centered around Ms. Jan Elizabeth Van Dusen, a resident of Oakland, California. Back in 2004, Ms. Van Dusen had claimed a $12,068 charitable-contribution deduction on her taxes. This amount calculated, was her annual expenses for taking care of foster cats. It’s not something that’s emotionally OR financially easy to do!
But she was a dedicated volunteer for the Fix Our Ferals, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Richmond, CA.
Fix Our Ferals’ mission is to engage in “trap-neuter-return” activities, which consist of trapping feral cats, neutering them, obtaining necessary medical treatments, and releasing them back into the wild.
Throughout 2004, Ms. Van Dusen had almost 80 cats in her foster care! While some were her personal pets, the majority of the others were fosters from shelters. Fosters that she spent over $12,000 of her own money caring for.
During the case they focused on whether or not this claim fit into 1 of 3 approved deductions categories and met all requirements.
Donates money or property directly to the charitable organization
Places money or property in trust for the charitable organization
Incurs unreimbursed expenses while performing volunteer services for a charitable organization
The expense also had to be directly related to the cause, and ONLY the cause.
If the expense is incurred solely in connection with one’s duties as a volunteer, such as buying food for a foster pet, the expense is deductible. If, however, the expense is one that would have been incurred regardless of one’s duties as a volunteer, such as repairs or insurance for a car that is used for personal transportation as well as transportation related to volunteer duties, the expense will be considered to have been incurred regardless of any volunteer service, thus it is not a deductible expense.
For anyone out there thinking that they may fall into this deduction category too, here’s what the IRS required Ms. Van Dusen to prove in her case.
Strength Of Taxpayer’s Affiliation With Organization.
Organization’s Ability to Request Volunteer Services From Taxpayer
The Organization’s Supervision Of The Taxpayer’s Work.
Fortunately, they ruled in Ms. Van Dusen’s favor to claim her foster pet expenses, and volunteers around the world rejoiced!
Please be sure to check with qualified tax professionals if you feel that you may qualify for this deduction.
As with anything related to the IRS, make sure your records are impeccable! Receipts, vet bills, documentation that services were requested or approved from the charity organization, etc…should all be retained. You never know what the “tax man” will ask for!
It’s not quite that win of being able to claim our pets as dependents yet (don’t hold your breath.) But hopefully, fosterers have been able to recoup some of the MILLIONS of dollars a year spent on caring for homeless animals. Although seeing the animal transform into a loving, well-cared for family pet is worth every penny–this is well deserved bonus.
Here are a few more tax breaks pet “servants” may be eligible for too! Happy Hunting!
PLEASE SHARE WITH ALL YOUR FRIENDLY ANIMAL FOSTER GROUPS!
REMEMBER: ADOPT, DON’T SHOP; FOSTERING SAVES LIVES & SPAY AND NEUTER!
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