When it comes to tax deductions, there’s a perk for animal lovers who foster a pet: It’s tax deductible.

In 2011, a landmark court ruling, which allowed fosters to write off expenses, had rescue volunteers barking up a storm about the paw-sitive news. Experts tell us the recent changes to US tax laws have not changed this benefit.

Accountant Annie Whittington said hard-working fosters should claim their expenses.  “Being a rescuer is like having a second job that you never get to clock out of, and although it’s food for the soul, you don’t get paid either,” she said. “I think it’s a great benefit that a lot of people don’t know about.”

So if you foster a dog, cat, goat, horse, rabbit, or any animal, keep receipts for the food, leashes, collars, or toys you buy and any medical bills you pay. Be sure to separate records for what you spent on your foster versus your own pet.

Some of the dozens of dogs Aaron Gelfand saved from shelters
Some of the dozens of dogs Aaron Gelfand saved from shelters

Also, keep a log of the miles you drive for a charity. If you pick up your foster from the shelter, drive the animal to medical appointments or shuttle critters around, keep records. For example, rescue volunteer Aaron Gelfand told us he logged more than 7,000 miles in 2017 saving dogs from shelters in Texas.

What are the keys to getting the deductions? Whittington said it’s important to remember a few key items:

  • You must foster for an approved 501(c)3 organization
  • If you deduct more than $250 you need a written letter from the nonprofit rescue group acknowledging the expenses
  • You can’t claim any expenses that were reimbursed
  • If you claim mileage you must keep a log
  • You cannot claim any amount for time worked

How do the changes in the tax laws impact claiming foster related expenses? “The major change this year has to do with the requirements to itemize these deductions, not if they are deductible,” Whittington said. “In order to claim these and other itemized deductions on your Schedule A, you will have to have expenses that exceed the standard deduction.”

If your brain is now aching after absorbing “Foster Pet Tax Deductions 101,” animal rescue groups say another bottom line you should remember: You will save furry, cute lives. The moment an animal gets sprung from a shelter into a foster home, they’re off death row.

Dog saved from animal shelter on freedom ride
Dog saved from animal shelter on freedom ride

Katherine Martin, president of Lucky Lab Rescue and Adoption, said she hopes it encourages more people to foster. “Being able to take a tax deduction for fostering is a huge incentive for people to get involved,” she said. “These dogs really really need placement and that’s the only thing that saves them is to have a foster home, a nice place to go until they can be rehomed. We pull these dogs from the shelter and they need time to decompress, be vetted, and be in a loving home. Any incentive is wonderful.”

Some people think fostering a pet would be emotionally tough, they say, “Oh I’d get too attached.” But rescues tell us the alternative to not opening your door and heart for a bit could mean “dead dog or cat walkin'” for some animals. Seriously, it’s foster home or death. It’s that terrible and that black and white.

Many fosters say they absolutely get attached to their fosters, but they know they helped save that animal’s life.  If they didn’t foster that pet would have been killed in a shelter.  Some foster parents stay in touch with the families who adopt their foster and even visit.

If you’d like to get involved in animal rescue or have a favorite breed you’d like to foster, just jump online and search for local rescue groups they’d love to hear from you. And Uncle Sam should be ready to accept your tax deduction for helping to save a life.

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