When it comes to income taxes there's actually something animal lovers are wagging about: Fostering a pet is tax deductible.
A landmark court case has volunteers barking up a storm about the paw-sitive news. What are the keys to getting the deduction?
"The basic requirements are that the expenses have to be directly related and solely attributable to the rendition of services to a qualified 501c3 organization," CPA Kevin Long, a Massachusetts tax attorney, told Watchdog Mary.
Long warned if you're going to claim the deduction, you need to carefully track what you spend.
"You need to have documentation to support the expenses, and the organization needs to provide written acknowledgement for expenses over $250," he said. “The written acknowledgement must contain a description of the services provided and a statement of whether or not the organization provided any reimbursement.”
And get that letter from the rescue before you file your taxes.
This taxing development is the cat's meow for people who love animals. But how do you make sure you qualify?
CPA Bryan Knuff shared his tips:
Unreimbursed expenses must be directly connected with and solely attributable to the rendition of services to a charitable organization.
Document all of your expenses. Keep a journal if you need to but detail any expense that is not obvious. Keep your receipts and cancelled checks. You can claim any expense related to their care including vet bills, medicines, supplies, food, etc. You can claim cleaning supplies, and a portion of your home utilities if your operation is substantial enough.
For charitable purposes, you can deduct 14 cents per mile you drive to assist the animal, to vet appointments for example. (Be sure to look up the IRS reimbursement rate when you file, it often changes annually.)
Be sure what you claim is reasonable.
If you’re now thinking, “Oh no, I could have claimed fostering expenses on my taxes last year! What can I do?” Experts told Watchdog Mary you can amend, but you can only go back three years.
If your head is now aching after sifting through "Foster Pet Tax Deductions 101," animal rescue groups say there’s another bottom line you should remember: You will be saving furry, cute lives. The moment an animal gets sprung from a kill shelter into a foster home, they're off death row.
Katherine Martin, president of Lucky Lab Rescue and Adoption, is thrilled by the court decision. "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 adopted. 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, "I'd get too attached." Rescue groups want you to remember the alternative, if you don’t open your door and heart temporarily for an animal it could mean "dead dog or cat walkin.’" Seriously, it's foster home or death. It's that terrible and that black and white. Not all rescues have shelters, nor can they afford boarding, so they’ve got to have a foster home to save a pet.
Many fosters say they absolutely get attached to their fosters, but they know they helped save that pet's life. Some foster parents stay in touch with the families who adopt their foster animals. They even visit, and dog or cat sit. So it’s not always goodbye for good.
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, (Example searches: "Massachusetts Lab rescue", "California Pug rescue", "Chicago Calico rescue" or even "Austin cat rescue") they'd love to hear from you, and Uncle Sam should be ready to accept your tax deduction for helping to save a life!
This Watchdog Mary article originally appeared in Yahoo! and Galtime.com
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