Some people consider pets are a lot like children. Look at their similarities: they’re cute, loving, playful, attention-craving, and they can’t wait for you to get home. They also poop, pee, whine, ignore your commands, and break stuff. (Hey, it’s not all lovey-dovey!)
Like children, pets rely upon you to support them, which can get expensive. Add to that veterinary bills, grooming, licenses, cleanup and repairs caused by pet damage, not to mention the cost of the pet itself… ouch.
According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association, Americans are expected to spend more than $62.75 billion on their pets in 2016. (That’s billion with a B.) So in light of that grim statistic (at least for those who don’t own pet store stock), it doesn’t seem that silly for tax-paying pet owners to wonder: “Am I allowed to claim my pet as a dependent on my tax return? Can I get some compensation for my contribution to the $62.75 billion? Puleeeze?
Although the IRS doesn’t specifically spell it out, it is tacitly implied that dependents — at least for taxation purposes — must be human. So, unless your little furry friend is considered a business expense, like a guard dog used to protect your business or he can be claimed as a medical expense like a seeing eye dog, you can not claim him as a dependent.
Now before you argue that your dog thinks he’s human or that your parakeet acts more like a human than your 2-year-old (I believe you! I believe you!), hear me out. The rationale behind this “must-be-an-actual-human” requirement is that children of the species Homo sapiens have the potential to grow into adult taxpaying Homo sapiens, whereas dogs, cats, birds, gerbils, fish, rocks, etc., do not. It’s as though the IRS is sowing the seeds — or at least providing the fertilizer — for growing the next crop of taxpayers.
Here’s another way to look at it. Pets do not pay taxes, so why should the government provide tax incentives to the owners of these adorable freeloaders? Ahhhh, now do you see? Makes sense, huh?
Don’t worry about knowing this tax law. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you deserve based on your answers.