Paul L. Caron

Monday, June 6, 2011

Attorney Can Deduct Some, But Not All, Expenses of Caring for 70-80 Foster Cats

Cats The Tax Court on Thursday allowed an attorney to deduct some, but not all, of the expenses of caring for 70-80 foster cats as charitable deductions. Van Dusen v. Commissioner, 136 T.C. No. 25 (June 2, 2011):

Van Dusen, a resident of Oakland, California, is an attorney who cared for cats in her private residence in 2004. Van Dusen volunteered for an organization called Fix Our Ferals and argues that her out-of-pocket expenses for caring for cats qualify as charitable contributions to that organization. The parties stipulate that Fix Our Ferals is a § 501(c)(3) organization. ...

Van Dusen was a Fix Our Ferals volunteer in 2004. She trapped feral cats, had them neutered, obtained vaccinations and necessary medical treatments, housed them while they recuperated, and released them back into the wild. She also provided longterm foster care to cats in her home. She attempted to place long-term foster cats in one of two no-kill shelters, Berkeley East Bay Humane Society or East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or otherwise find them adoptive homes. Some foster cats, however, stayed with her indefinitely. In 2004, Van Dusen had between 70 and 80 cats total, of which approximately 7 were pets. The pet cats had names, but the foster cats generally did not. Most cats roamed freely around Van Dusen’s home (except for bathrooms) and resided in common areas. Less domesticated cats stayed in a separate room called the “feral room”. Some cats lived in cages for taming. Others lived in cages because of illness.

Van Dusen devoted essentially her entire life outside of work to caring for the cats. Each day she fed, cleaned, and looked after the cats. She laundered the cats’ bedding and sanitized the floors, household surfaces, and cages. Van Dusen even purchased a house “with the idea of fostering in mind”....

We find that taking care of foster cats was a service performed for Fix Our Ferals, a § 501(c)(3) organization that specializes in the neutering of wild cats. Some of Van Dusen’s expenses are categorically not related to taking care of foster cats and are therefore not deductible. These expenses are the cost of cremating a pet cat, bar association dues, and DMV fees. Some of Van Dusen’s other expenses are not solely attributable to foster cat care and are not deductible. These expenses are the cost of repairing her wet/dry vacuum and her membership dues at a store.

Other expenses are attributable to the services Van Dusen provided to Fix Our Ferals. These expenses are 90% of her veterinary expenses and pet supplies and 50% of her cleaning supplies and utility bills. Some payments to Orchard Supply Hardware and Lowe’s for pet supplies, however, are disallowed because the amounts spent on pet supplies cannot be determined with precision. In deciding whether Van Dusen kept adequate records of the expenses attributable to her volunteer services, we hold that the regulatory requirements for money contributions govern Van Dusen’s expenses of less than $250. Van Dusen has met the requirements for these less than $250 expenses. Her records are acceptable substitutes for canceled checks under the substantial compliance doctrine. For expenses of $250 or more, however, Van Dusen does not have contemporaneous written acknowledgment from Fix Our Ferals. Therefore, these expenses are not deductible.

(Hat Tip: Bob Kamman.)

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The crazy cat lady from the Simpsons would be proud

Posted by: JJ | Jun 6, 2011 6:03:01 AM

Could I get a charitable contribution deduction to help pay for "fixing" lawyers. Do we want them reproducing? But, I'm not going to keep 70-80 of them at my house while they recuperate.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 6, 2011 8:46:45 AM

Posted by: Mark Turner | Jun 8, 2011 2:25:03 PM

Good grief! I love cats, but 70-80 IN THE HOUSE? They don't make nose plugs that good.

Can she deduct her phychiatric bills? She's obviousy nuts.

Posted by: Barbara | Jun 8, 2011 3:30:32 PM

So the courts agree that a lady lawyer running a cat house can deduct her expenses. Nothing ground breaking here.

Posted by: willis | Jun 9, 2011 8:39:20 AM