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Last week at my other tax blog: Congress downgraded; Amazon taxes; Tax holidays

Tax dependent rules or why you can't claim your pets

I'm heading up the road today to visit my mother and my furry half-brother Willie.

Willie, as I'm sure all animal lovers immediately surmised, is my mom's pet, specifically her dog. She says he's a rat terrier, but to me he looks more like a long-haired chihuahua or a Papillion.

Sidewalk cat 072011-skb (2) But what do I know of dogs? I'm a cat person, like the neighborhood kids who chalked the oversized cat pictured at left (I snapped the photo on one of my walks) on the sidewalk outside their house.

I do know, though, that regardless of what kind of pet you own (or that owns you; remember, I am a feline fan), the animal essentially is a furry family  member. That's how it should be.

Unfortunately, despite Internal Revenue Service efforts over the last few years to consider non-traditional families in its regulations and rulings, pets still don't count for tax purposes.

That means you can't claim your animal as a dependent.

To count as a dependent that will get you another tax exemption and a variety of child-related tax breaks, your kid must be human and meet five dependency tests.

In some specific cases there could be a bit of leeway, as is the case in divorced parents who share custody and support of their children.

And a recent U.S. Tax Court ruling allowed a big brother to claim his younger sister as a dependent.

Pets also are often part of estate planning, as demonstrated in the property left to Leona Helmsley's pup Trouble and Gail Posner's bewigged chihuahuas.

But for the most part, when it comes to taxes, pets don't have a place.

That's OK, though. They're worth it even without any write-offs.


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