Manatee animal rescue nonprofits expect increase in foster homes

vmannix@bradenton.comJanuary 17, 2013 

MANATEE -- Do you foster pets?

If so, there might be a tax deduction to go with your labor of love.

Thanks to a recent U.S. Tax Court decision, the IRS will recognize expenses people incur while fostering cats and dogs for approved 501(c)(3) charities and nonprofits, according to a published report.

That includes expenditures for pet food, medicine, veterinary bills, travel crates and transportation mileage. If a part of your house is a dedicated foster pet shelter, utility bills could be figured in, too.

Which pleases Mary Lupi and Shona Otto.

Lupi is president of Safe Haven Animal Rescue of Florida, Inc. Otto is the founder and president of Underdogs Rescue of Florida, Inc.

Though their nonprofits cover clients expenses, the tax breakthrough is a welcome one.

"This is wonderful," Lupi said. "There are so many people who foster and spend a lot of money on their own during the year, but now they can write that off."

Safe Haven has between

20-25 foster homes and that could grow.

"Folks are afraid to foster because this is an added expense, so it will help fostering," she said. "Fostering is a key component because I need that foster home before I can rescue another animal and I foster all the time."

Lupi has five dogs, two of which are foster dogs.

Otto, her counterpart, has eight dogs, half of which are foster dogs.

The tax break works for her -- and Underdog's 50 foster homes.

"If you're in a regular animal shelter, you go through so many cleaning supplies, anything like that, and that's an expense of the shelter," she said. "Why not the same thing for the home? It will be nice for them to write it off."

Amy Van Dell, executive director for the Manatee County Humane Society, agreed.

Her nonprofit's foster program includes 15 foster homes for kittens and between 5-10 for puppies -- all under 8 weeks old, not old enough for spaying or neutering.

"We provide food and meds, but people will supplement that," Van Dell said. "So this (tax break) is great, another step toward more community support for an ongoing effort to achieve no-kill. More people will be willing to foster because of that."

Just remember to keep all your receipts and itemize on your tax return. That's the advice of Bradenton accountant Carol Foster, a federal tax professional and dog lover.

"They need to start keeping records or this is not going to be a deduction for them," she said.

According to the court ruling, that includes a letter from the nonprofit confirming the volunteer's foster status if expenses surpass $250.

One visit to the vet will exceed that, Foster said.

"Anytime they have to take the dog to vet it could be substantial, absolutely," she said. "Any out-of-pocket expenses caring for the pet could be considerable for people who foster because it's expensive to take care of animals. It could be a sizeable deduction for somebody, depending on their particular tax situation."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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