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The Tax Benefits of Donating to Animal Shelters and Caring for Rescue Pets

Credits and Deductions Individual Taxes
A woman contemplates tax deductions for pets while playing with her orange cat

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When it comes to charitable donations and taxes, it pays to be generous. Helping shelter pets by donating to your local humane society is a great way to make a difference while earning a tax break.

Should I donate to my local animal shelter?

Animal welfare groups are crucial in rescuing and caring for our furry friends to help them find their forever homes.

Donating to your local animal shelter is a fantastic option if you are looking for ways to help pets in need. As nonprofit organizations, animal shelters will use monetary donations to pay for essentials like daily operation costs, community outreach programs, animal supplies, staff training, and medical expenses for neutering, spaying, and veterinary care.

The best part? You can even write off donations to your local animal shelter on your tax return.

What is the best item to donate to an animal shelter?

While monetary donations are always appreciated, animal shelters are typically happy to take a wide variety of pet supplies as well.

Here are a few charitable donation items your local humane society may accept:

  • Pet food
  • Cat litter and litter boxes for shelter cats
  • Dog toys and harnesses for shelter dogs
  • Cleaning supplies such as brooms and mops
  • Paper towels
  • Office supplies
  • Pet beds
  • Trash bags
  • Heating pads
  • Laundry detergent

What are the tax benefits of donating to an animal shelter?

Donations to charitable organizations like animal shelters can be claimed as tax deductions. You can reduce your taxable income by your donation amount (as long as it’s made to a qualifying charity). When donating cash, make sure you get a receipt from the animal shelter documenting the organization’s name, the donation amount, and the donation date.

If you receive some kind of benefit from the charitable organization for your donation, you can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit you received. For example, if you donated $200 to an animal shelter and received a benefit worth $50, your deduction amount would be $150.

Are there limits on how much I can deduct for charitable donations?

There are limits to deducting charitable contributions from your taxes. Generally, you can deduct up to 60% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), but it also depends on the type of contribution and what kind of organization it is. You can find the full details in IRS Publication 526.

If you exceed the AGI limits, you can often carry over any excess contributions and deduct them on future tax returns for up to five years.

Do charitable gifts to animal shelters reduce taxable income?

Yes, if you “gift” supplies or other items to your local animal shelter, you can deduct the fair market value of those donations from your taxable income.

What is the difference between a gift and a donation?

While charitable donations are tax-deductible, individual gifts are not. Charitable donations are not considered gifts for tax purposes, making them exempt from the gift tax and eligible as an itemized deduction.

How do I deduct charitable donations to animal shelters?

To deduct your charitable contribution from your taxes, you must first itemize your deductions. You cannot claim the charitable deduction if you claim the standard deduction.

You must also verify that the IRS recognizes your chosen animal shelter as a Section 501(c)(3) organization. You can use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization search tool to ensure you’re donating to a qualifying charity.

When itemizing, you’ll need to deduct the value of your donation. If you donated items or supplies instead of cash, you can deduct the fair market value of those supplies. Always remember to save any donation receipts for your records.

Why do I have to itemize my deductions to claim charitable donations?

The IRS only allows you to deduct charitable contributions if you itemize your deductions using Schedule A.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS temporarily allowed taxpayers claiming the standard deduction to deduct their charitable contributions, but that provision has since expired.

If you aren’t sure whether you should itemize your deductions or claim the standard deduction, here’s what you need to consider.

Can I deduct the value of the time I volunteer/donate to animal shelters?

The IRS does not allow you to deduct time spent doing volunteer work. To qualify for a tax write-off, you must either donate cash or items — you can’t assign a value of time spent volunteering for a deduction.

One related exception would be if you volunteer to foster pets in your home on behalf of the animal shelter. If the shelter does not reimburse you for things like vet bills, food, shelter, or supplies for the foster animal, you can deduct those the same way you would charitable donations.

Can I claim my rescue dog on taxes?

Unfortunately, the IRS won’t let you claim your fur baby as a dependent for tax purposes unless your furry friend meets certain criteria (see below).

What are some tax deductions for animals?

In certain circumstances, you can claim pet-related expenses on your taxes. To qualify, your pet will likely need to fit into one of the following categories:

  • Service animals – If you require an animal for a diagnosed medical condition, such as a guide dog, you may be able to deduct the cost of caring for the animal as a medical expense. These expenses also need to be itemized.
  • Breeding animals – If you breed dogs, cats, horses, or other animals as your primary occupation (not as a hobby), you can deduct related costs as business expenses.
  • Foster pets – Many animal shelters rely on volunteers to foster pets in their homes as they await adoption. If you foster pets in your home, you may be able to deduct unreimbursed expenses as a charitable deduction on your tax return. To qualify, the pet must be from a qualified charity.
  • Working animals and performance animals – Much like service animals, the care of working and performance animals that are “ordinary and necessary” for your business can qualify as a business expense and, therefore, be tax-deductible. Some examples of these kinds of animals include guard dogs, working dogs, racehorses, etc.

Some deductible expenses for qualifying pets mentioned above could include:

  • Veterinary bills and medical expenses
  • Pet food and supplies
  • Training costs
  • Grooming, boarding, and related expenses
  • Pet insurance
  • Transportation costs

Is a rescue pet tax deductible?

You cannot generally deduct pet adoption fees when adopting a rescue from a shelter.

If you are working with a qualified 501(c)(3) rescue organization to foster and rescue animals, you can deduct any unreimbursed expenses related to caring for the rescued animal(s). However, these costs are not deductible if you choose to rescue animals on your own.

Can a guard dog be a tax write-off?

If you require a dog for your business, such as a guard dog or a herding dog, you can deduct the cost of caring for the dog. You can’t write off the cost of buying the dog, but other expenses like food, vet bills, and training could be claimed as a deduction if the dog is “ordinary and necessary” for your business. You must keep good records and be able to prove that the dog is essential for your business.

This article is for informational purposes only and not legal or financial advice.

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Your max tax refund is guaranteed.

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