Rescuers may be entitled to tax deductions

A U.S. tax court has ruled a volunteer for an animal welfare non-profit is entitled to deductions for many expenses incurred in performing trap neuter return for feral cats and providing care for "foster cats". 

The key is that the taxpayer, Jan Elizabeth Van Dusen, performed this work, as a volunteer primarily for a charitable organization, Fix Our Ferals. Also, she was able to establish for the allowed deductions that the unreimbursed expenses she incurred were indeed in connection with her work with cats.

As the court explained, "Fix Our Ferals’ mission is to engage in "trap-neuter-return" activities, which consist of trapping feral cats, neutering them, obtaining necessary medical treatments and vaccinations, and releasing them back into the wild. Fix Our Ferals enlists volunteers to perform these tasks. The volunteers usually return cats to their original neighborhoods, but sometimes cats are moved to safer neighborhoods….

"After being neutered, the cats must be temporarily housed in volunteers’ private residences while they recover. After the cats recover and have received all necessary medical treatments, they are usually returned to the wild.

"Some cats cannot be safely returned to the wild. Typically those cats are young, sick, injured, elderly, or tame. Those cats must be cared for domestically. We refer to all care for trapped cats, including temporary housing while cats are recuperating from neutering, as ‘foster care’. We refer to cats under foster care as ‘foster cats’.

"Some of the cats are not returned to the wild because they are already tame. Volunteers try to tame the other cats that cannot be returned to the wild to make them suitable for adoption. The volunteers then attempt to place the tame cats in no-kill shelters or adoptive homes. The success of placing the tame cats depends on shelter availability and people’s willingness to adopt.

"Although some of the cats that cannot be returned to the wild are adopted or given to shelters, others remain in foster Sometimes volunteers capture tame stray cats when they attempt to trap feral cats."

The court continued, "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".

The court found "Van Dusen’s inability to trace her cat rescue work exclusively to Fix Our Ferals does not pose an insurmountable bar to deductibility. We find that she performed most of her work in 2004 for Fix Our Ferals. Moreover, all of the other organizations with which she was affiliated, and therefore to which she may have provided services, qualify as section 170(c)organizations."