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Can you deduct the cost of owning a Service Dog?

We’ve been asked several times if you can deduct the cost of owning a Service Dog from your taxes. The answer is: yes! You can include in medical expenses the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal to assist a visually impaired or hearing disabled person, psychiatric or other physical disabilities.

In general, you may deduct the cost of owning a Service Dog from your taxes. This includes any costs, such as food, grooming, and veterinary care, incurred in maintaining the health and vitality your Service Dog so that it may perform its duties. While the IRS website states you can deduct the costs for Service Dogs that help with physical disabilities, Psychiatric Service Dogs which are specifically trained to complete tasks that assist with mental health disabilities are also covered (with several addendums). However as with any deduction, you should be well prepared to back up your claim. For more information, please view this on the IRS.gov website.

Our mantra is document, document, document. We highly suggest keeping a paper notebook or online blog as a log or record of your training dates and accomplishments. It will not only serve to help you during the training process but will also serve as a useful paper trail for your Service or Assistance Dog.

Many medical expenses are tax deductible. Any expense that involves prevention, diagnosis, or medical treatment of a physical or mental illness is deductible. Any expense that involves treatment for anything cosmetic is not.

Humorous photo of dog doing taxes

How much of the expenses can you deduct?
Generally, you can deduct on Schedule A (Form 1040) only the amount of your medical and dental expenses that is more than 10% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). But if either you or your spouse was born before January 2, 1949, you can deduct the amount of your medical and dental expenses that is more than 7.5% of your AGI.

Example: You are unmarried and were born after January 2, 1949, and your AGI is $40,000, 10% of which is $4,000. You paid medical expenses of $2,500. You cannot deduct any of your medical expenses because they are not more than 10% of your AGI.

Please note: We aren’t your accountant or financial advisor, so of course if you have questions you should consult with a tax professional. If you are ever audited, you may be asked to provide proof that your animal is a Service Dog that qualifies under the ADA. If you train your own animal, the best way to do this is by keeping a record of your training either in some kind of a paper log or online web blog — or a video tape of your Service Dog’s completion of the Minimum Training Standards for Service and Assistance Dogs and a Public Access Test like the one available at Assistance Dogs International.

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Comments

  • Mindy Scheartz March 12, 2015

    Your answer only covers people who have service dogs. What about the expenses incurred by Puppyraisers, who are training puppies to be someone else’s service dog?

    • Robin J. March 12, 2015

      Talk with your tax advisor, but this would normally be a totally different situation than the one quoted in the article because the puppy is not a medical expense for the puppy raiser, but instead a charitable contribution to the organisation that owns the dog.

      So in the US you would have to meet a different set of guidelines:

      1) the dog cannot be being raised for one named individual, but rather to meet a charity’s stated purpose (preferably a 501(c)3 charity).

      This is the regular IRS rule. If your neighbour breaks her leg and you offer to drive her around, you can’t count the cost of gas as a charitable expense. But if you volunteer for an Organisation that provides rides to medical patients, you may be able to.

      2) the Organisation may have to provide guidelines and possibly even approve individual expenses as incurred.

      This one gets trickier, but basically if the Organisation says “These are the things puppy raisers should provide for each dog” then those are the things most likely to count as a contribution to the charity. So if the charity says “$50 kibble” and you buy $150 canned food, you may not be able to count any of the canned food in the contribution.

      3) the charity has to provide you with an official letter acknowledging your role as a puppy raiser.

      If all of that is done, then you might be able to count the charity-recommended costs as a contribution to the charity.

      In almost all cases where this is possible, the training program already explains all this to puppy raisers when they sign up, and gives them the guidelines, expense tracker forms, and details.

      So if you’re just considering becoming a puppy raiser, that’s the general overview.

      If you’re already a puppy raiser, talk to the training program that owns the dog. But if they didn’t already give you information on this topic, you likely won’t be able to count the expenses as a contribution for any of several reasons.

  • Natasha August 24, 2015

    Do these expenses have to be incurred in one year or can you lump them? 10% is a considerable amount of one’s AGI. To expand on my question a bit, say 10% of my AGI is $8,000, but I only incur $4,000 a year in expenses on my service animal. Can I write the expenses off every two years when I meet the $8,000 requirement?

    • Dmitriy Bekkerman December 17, 2016

      @Natasha: No, you can’t lump them but you can shift certain expenses to capitalize on them. Say you want to maximize your expenses in 2017 but your vet exam due in Dec 2016. Wait till Jan 2 2017 to go to the vet. Buy all dog food supplies and flee preventive meds in 2017 to cover both 2017 and 2018 years and so for. If you are afraid of exp dates, buy 2018 supplies in Nov-Dec of 2017 as for sure dry dog food and preventive meds should at least one year of good-thorough and with holiday season discounted prices you can score better deal 🙂

  • Hayley Grill January 25, 2017

    I have an Emotional Support Animal that is also a Psychiatric Service Dog. My costs well exceed the threshold (I need the assistance of daycare and dog walkers, food, vet etc ). Do I qualify for an exemption? Where do I provide that information (what form?) and does it need to be broken down by provider?

    Just an FYI that things like the Canine Good Citizen test are ONLY required if you take the dog in public as a service animal. All that is needed to make a service dog..a service dog..is a disabled handler and 1 task specific to your disability. Public Access is a completely separate issue. If you dogs job only exists in the home, no other requirements apply.

    • SDhandler January 6, 2018

      There are no required tests for public access in the US. The ADA just states that your SD must be under the handler’s control at all times.

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