If you’ve ever fostered a pet, you know the costs can add up: food, toys to keep them entertained, maybe they need grooming or you have to kennel them for a trip, and probably a vet bill or two before your fuzzy little ward finds his forever home. But you foster anyway, because animals that don’t have a home need love too, right?
Caring for homeless animals as a foster helps the greater community cover the costs of animal care as a whole because foster programs help to subsidize charitable organizations like the Humane Society with daily care and out of pocket expenses. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal in 2011, the Humane Society reported that their volunteers spent on average “between $2,000 and $15,000 each year” on expenses related to fostering animals. The good news for animal foster parents is you can submit at least some of those costs as tax deductions at tax time.
“As with all volunteer work associated with a qualified 501(c)(3), a volunteer cannot claim a charitable deduction for the value of services they provide,” said Stephen Varner, CPA, a senior tax manager at Kruggel Lawton CPAs. “Charitable deductions would be limited to unreimbursed expenses while providing foster pet services or money or property donated directly to the charitable organization.”
Here are more detailed guidelines:
• You must foster for an approved charity that is recognized by the IRS with the 501(c)(3) designation as a not-for-profit organization.
• Fostering expenses eligible for deduction include food, medicines, vet bills, crates, and garbage bags. Even a portion of your utilities can be considered expenses as long as a specific area of your home is only used for the care of the animals and nothing else. Check with your tax preparer to get a list of all eligible items for deduction.
• If you foster a pet, make sure to save any and all receipts.
• If your fostering expenses add up to over $250 for the year, you must obtain a letter from the charitable organization that confirms your foster/volunteer status.
In addition to animal rescue, these tax laws apply to all volunteer expenses related to charitable work for approved organizations. There are currently more than 1.5 million charitable organizations recognized by the IRS, with volunteers spending millions of dollars out of pocket to support them.
If you do any volunteer work, let your tax preparer know so that you can deduct the proper expenses in 2020. If you’re unsure if something qualifies, your tax preparer should be able to help clarify eligible expenses.