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If You Foster a Cat, You Can Claim it on your Taxes!

ThinkstockPhotos-519975507In a groundbreaking victory for animal rescuers around the country, one California animal foster fought the Internal Revenue Service in court – and won! As a result of Van Dusen v. Commissioner,  animal rescuers nationwide that are fostering dogs and/or cats for approved charities may claim the expenses during tax time.

An approved charity is one that is recognized by the IRS with the 501(c)(3) designation as a Not-for-Profit organization. Fostering expenses eligible for deduction are food, medicines, veterinary bills, crates, garbage bags, and the like. Even a portion of your utilities can be considered expenses as long as a a specific area of your home is only used for the care of the animals and nothing else.

In addition to animal rescue, these tax laws apply to all volunteer expenses related to charitable work for an approved organization.

If you foster a cat (and this includes dogs, too) make sure to save any and all receipts, and, if expenses add up to over $250 for the year, obtain a letter from the charitable organization that confirms your volunteer or foster status.

The Humane Society has said that their volunteers spend, on average, between $2,000 and $15,000 each year on out-of-pocket expenses related to fostering animals.

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. Finally, those volunteers have an opportunity to be rewarded for their generosity and kindness.

Are you an animal foster? Have you ever claimed those expenses on your tax filing? Share your experiences with us below!



  1. linda

    Apr 14, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    We have been helping by taking care of animals for the last 12 years! We have paid for all the food medical supplies doctor bills vet checks etc……. We have currently 5 dogs 8 cats a horse and a goat. We have no outside monetary help.

    • Lifeline Adoptions, Inc.

      Jan 29, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      Hi Linda…bless you for the awesome help you give to animals…hope you dont mind a suggestion, if no one has yet…depending on what state you live in (NY here), for a nominal fee you can get incorporated status…in our case, it allows us to be assisted by and partnered with a number or organizations, including a number of them who donate food, litter, supplies and so on…this includes some of the petstore chains but you need to be tenacious and a bit pushy and establish good contact persons…hope this might help you help animals…regards…Lifeline Adoptions, Inc.

  2. Aimable Cats

    Apr 15, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Now the question becomes if they will allow those expenses for the pets of those who make a business out of pet blogging.

  3. Pingback: Are there any costs to fostering kittens? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured)

    • Lynn

      Jan 22, 2016 at 7:45 am

      It depends which group you foster for. I offer to provide supplies to my fosters (and of course all of their vet care) as my thank you for their help but several fosters absolutely will not take from the rescue and buy the supplies on their own so this is something that would be great for them.

  4. Gina Tucker

    Jan 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    What about those of us that have rescues that pay completely out of pocket and can’t afford 501c3 , they should give us a break too

    • Linda M.

      Jan 21, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      I agree. Completely.

    • Katherine Doud

      Jan 6, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      It is relatively easy to get a 501 (C) classification far a non profit rescue. Talk to your tax preparer.

  5. Sheven Gnar

    Jan 24, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Find a rescue to hook up with and use their 501c3 if you foster your own strays. Make sure you align yourself with a good rescue to help you find homes and guide you in vetting etc. Most rescues only pull from shelters so you have to get your foster pet from them directly, but some are cool about taking in strays and helping people who take in stray dogs and care for outdoor cats etc.

  6. dianne

    Jan 26, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I have 23 cats. Not of choice…I feed them, take them to the vet…everything is out of my pocket. How can I hook up with 501c to help me get back money from the IRS. Many of these cats I tried to surrender were not friendly enough or sheltersaid they had to many. I am finding it harder. All 501c gets money from donations…which they can feed there animals…guess what , if they have some home, some of the food goes home with them…along with a paycheck…WHY are we out there helping and noone helps us…? Please guide me and others like me…

    • Candace Kirkwood

      Jan 27, 2016 at 10:00 am

      I see a few of my clients in this thread, I’d love to work with you!

    • Laura

      Sep 2, 2016 at 2:24 am

      I don’t know what rescues you deal with but my 501c3 does not get me that much in donations…I work to pay for my food to feed 100 dogs and 25 kitties. That 1500.00 a month in food only! The ones who get the donations are the big guys with corporations backing them. The little guys really don’t get much. #RescueMeMo

      • Kathryn

        Jan 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm

        I work with a small rescue and we get help through a pet food bank. I would look to see if there is one in the area.

    • Katherine Doud

      Jan 6, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      Just keep track of your expenses and deduct on your Schedule A. Few other minor things but talk to your tax preparer.

  7. Shanna

    Jan 27, 2016 at 3:32 am

    I so agree Diane! It gets financially hard for us who cant afford 501c status and we get NO donations!

    • Candace Kirkwood

      Jan 27, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Shana, I am affordable, efficient, and fast! Most of my rescues receive their 501(c)(3) Tax Exemption determination approval letter within 7-10 days!

      • Jay

        Apr 21, 2016 at 1:09 am

        It cost me $50 to file with the State as Incorporated and $400 to file with the IRS to receive the 501c3 Tax Exemption. If your “rescue” has less than $50,000 in revenue/income per year and you don’t expect to go over that amount, it is super simple and you most likely don’t need to pay anyone to do the paperwork for you. My two cents…

    • Jay

      Apr 21, 2016 at 1:13 am

      I am in Oregon. Can’t really speak to other states, but the IRS filing is stupidly simple. Feel free to email me and I may be able to help you out.

  8. Candace Lee-Kirkwood

    Jan 27, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Diane,Shana, Gina and Linda:

    I am the tax exemption specialist, with a 100% approval rate with the IRS, I have helped many obtain tax exemption status! For rescues I’ve been successful at keeping the cost low and the tax exemption determination letter may come as soon as 8 days. Contact me, I would be happy to extend a group special! (I see a few of my clients in this thread)

    It’s time for you to qualify for free pet food and supplies, grants, monetary and in kind donations for all your hard work!

    • Mersadies

      Mar 22, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Candace, Our Rescue is trying to file but we need help and are in CA would you be willing to help us?

      We are operating under another local 501c3 right now and doing everything out of pocket and adoption fee’s ect, have been doing so for 3 years but want to become our own complete rescue!

  9. Candace Kirkwood

    Jan 27, 2016 at 9:58 am

    I am the tax exemption specialist in all 50 states we have a 100% approval rate with the IRS for tax exemptions. Our rates are affordable, and I would love to set up a special group pricing for those of you who need tax exemption it to obtain free pet food and supplies, donations, and grants.

  10. Dorothy Trevino

    Jan 29, 2016 at 2:35 am

    I would like advice or help. I currently feed 2 cat colonies that come into my yard. There are approximentally 32 cats. Most live in my back yard. I feed them twice a day. I also provide housing and shelter for them. I have been taking them to get spayed and neutered. I recently rescued a mother with her 6 kittens that were dumped on my door step. I have done this for the last 8 years all out of my pocket. Recently my husband had a leg amputated and lost his job. I am a 69 year old senior living on retirement only now. I need help to continue to feed the cats. I can no longer afford it. I don’t want them to go without food but I don’t know what to do. Please Help me. I will wait for your response. Thank You.

  11. Karin

    Jan 31, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I took over an animal rescue that was on the verge of being shut down. I have put in a lot of my own funds to keep it open and take care of the animals. Truthfully I have no idea what I am doing and need to find someone to take it over. I now have everything current and clean for the state which has been great to work with. How do you find assistance for food and vaccines. Also how to find someone to take over the shelter and keep it going in a manner that is the best for the animals. There is little communtity support and no shelter within miles so it needs to be open.

    • Laura

      Sep 2, 2016 at 2:28 am

      Did you ever find anyone to take over.

  12. Cheyenne Walker

    Feb 11, 2016 at 12:36 am

    I would like to get some info on the cat in this photo. I have a cat that looks very much like him only darker. I adopted my cat a little over 2 months ago and he’s around 17 years old. Last year I adopted 4 cats, but from now on I will only foster cats that are senior/geriatric.

  13. Jenn

    Feb 16, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I have rescued for well over 30 years. Getting our 501(c)(3) in 2013 has enabled us to pull and save more animals but has yet to garner us ANY sizable amount of supplies or donations. We are now a self funded FeLuk+ sanctuary. In our last two years we are over 25K in the red. I have liquidated all my personal funds (401K, RothIRA, etc) and continue to struggle from day to day to continue our mission. I have mailed out (E & snail), called, visited pet and supply stores etc for years requesting donations but it would seem that most people could care less if positive kitties have a place to go in lieu of being euthanized. There are many days only the animals eat but that is ok. I just wish more people with the means to help cared to do so.

  14. Sheila

    Feb 25, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I Foster birds for a non profit bird rescue and have been writing off food expenses for my taxes for a couple years. There is also a allowance for gas used. The best way to solicit donations is by word of mouth and a good website. We attend many functions that promote mainly dog, cat and rabbit rescues and this also is a great way to get your name out there. Here is our website for reference:

  15. Pingback: Just one more great reason to foster. - Vic's Aquarium and Pet Shop!

  16. Kay

    Mar 14, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    Does this include us folks that take care of ferals?

  17. Ed

    Nov 25, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    It doesn’t seem like anything positive is happening here. There doesn’t really seem like there are many answers to provide any help to people who are trying to take care of these poor animals. Poor Dorothy trying to take care of the cats that are in her back yard didn’t even get a reply. Is being a nonprofit 501c3 the answer I don’t really know, but there are many sites out there and even in here that are more than willing to take your money to help get you one, and that doesn’t even answer how one finds the money to pay for the fees. Our vet doesn’t mind raising the office visits and providing all kinds of test to resolve each medical issue that comes up. Then there are the rabies shots, flea medication each month, prescription foods. We have spent way over $10.000.00 in vet bills since 2013. We have also help the vet go on cruises with his family during that time. We have several cats that we take care of a love dearly and you cannot find one vet in this area that will give us a break even after all the business we have brought to them. We have come to the conclusion that its all about money and no one really cares. Probably the only good thing a 501c3 is good for is claiming all the expenses on your taxes. What do you think

  18. Bertie

    Dec 5, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    I love these ariltces. How many words can a wordsmith smith?

  19. Kate

    Jan 5, 2017 at 5:34 am

    Does this apply in the UK? I spend a fortune on my lovely foster kittens.

  20. Jeanne

    Jan 6, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Don’t forget the mileage driving to and from the shelter and the vet. Mine was almost 2,000 miles last year.

  21. http://www./

    Jan 18, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Amir می‌گه:سلم من الان حدود ۳ هفته است در گیرم که اکانت بسآزم تمام او کارآیی رو که هم گفته بودین انجام دادم ولی نمی شه بازم میگه تماس با پشتیبانی اگه امکان داره واسه منم اکانت بسآزین ممنون خواهشن []

  22. Helen

    Jun 7, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    I foster for our local animal shelter. They are not non-profit but are not really for profit either. Their yearly budget comes from the City. They do have a non-profit 501C3 “Friends” group. Does any one know if I can foster under the “friends” group for tax right off on the food etc. I spend?

  23. Heather

    Aug 21, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    I keep all my receipts for food, bedding, litter, toys, meds and gas to and from the shelter I foster for. The last two years I have claimed over $2500 on my taxes as donations to the shelter for the animals I foster, it can be as many as 40 in a year, it’s easier for me to buy the supplies I need for them and claim them than it is to keep driving to the shelter every few days when I need more of everything. My fosters are frequently kittens and sick cats and the specialized food and formula for a litter of kittens can cost as much as $12/per day sometimes.

  24. Pingback: 4 Reasons You Should Foster a Cat - The Catington Post

  25. Toni Salvato

    Apr 5, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    My family and I take care of so many cats I can’t count them all 100s feeding and fixing them can we claim in jersey

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