Does my pet count as a service animal on my taxes?

By TaxAct

Pets do more than warm our hearts; they’re road trip buddies, winter lap warmers, and sometimes — legitimate treatments for medical conditions. According to the IRS, if you have a service animal “primarily for medical care to alleviate a mental defect or illness,” and can establish that your companion qualifies, you could claim their expenses on your taxes.   

 

So, how do you prove your horse is therapy for MS, or that petting your cat is a mood stabilizer?

The IRS has guardrails to help classify which animals count.  Since claims are approved on a case-by-case basis, your pet doesn’t need to check every box to qualify.  Satisfying just one or two requirements is sometimes proof enough that your pet is a support animal. 

Taxpayer’s motive or purpose for making the expenditure

Words like “motive” and “purpose” drive home that this deduction is highly personal. If the IRS agrees your motive was to treat a mental or physical medical need, then your emotional support squirrel is a valid expense. If they don’t, then it isn’t.

If a physician has diagnosed a medical condition and recommended an animal as treatment or mitigation

A simple doctor’s note unlocks many medical deductions. If your therapist suggested a companion animal to soothe your bouts of anxiety — and you went out and bought one — then yes, the emotional support pet counts. Cover your bases: Get it in writing. The IRS loves documentation.

Links between the treatment and the illness

Is there an established history of others with your condition using pets for similar treatment? Have published studies praised squirrels as pocket-sized treatments for depression? Are there other connections that unite your underlying medical issue with your decision to get your pet? Excellent. Have those ready to back up your claim.

Effectiveness of the treatment

Have you seen improvement in, or relief from, the condition you’ve been treating? Is the pet responsible for this positive shift? That’s great news —  any records detailing this improvement can help bolster your case. For example: Kept a journal on your physical therapy progress? Does your fur buddy play a supporting role in your journey? That’s effectiveness of treatment.

Proximity in time to the onset or recurrence of a disease

It doesn’t seem fair: You’ve had your cat since childhood — of course it helps relieve your adult anxiety, right? Well, here’s the thing: A treatment is typically a response to a problem. If you developed a condition, or were injured, and acquired a support animal to help you cope, that connects the situation with the treatment.

What can you write off?

Does your pet qualify? Great — you can write off nearly all pet-centric expenses, including:

  •         Food
  •         Grooming
  •         Training
  •         Purchase price
  •         Vet bills
  •         Boarding
  •         Other miscellaneous costs

 

Will deducting service pet costs make financial sense for you?

To deduct costs associated with a service pet, you must itemize — and that means turning down the standard deduction. Recently the standard deduction increased greatly, making it the more beneficial option for most filers.

If you gain from itemizing — meaning your itemized deductions are greater than the standard — review your total medical costs, including your service pet. In order to list medical expenses on your taxes, they must exceed 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).

 

 Additional Resources

What’s AGI?

Adjusted gross income is your gross income minus any adjustments, like contributions to a traditional IRA and student loan interest. It will never be bigger than your gross income.

 Where do I enter service pet deductions on my tax return?

Service pets fall under medical expenses. That’s Schedule A on form 1040.

 Can TaxAct help walk me through this deduction?

Yes. TaxAct is designed to help you find every deduction you’re eligible for, including this one. 

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