Pets: Love ‘em and Leave ‘em – Wacky Tax Wednesday

Pets: Love ’em and leave ’em – Wacky Tax Wednesday

This post has been updated. It originally published Wednesday, June 17, 2015.

I love my dog, Sonny. He’s stubborn and pushy and has cost us thousands in medical bills (ours, not his), but he’s also sweet and silly and snuggly. I’m utterly devoted to him.

Still, it’s usually best to leave him home when we vacation. The question is: What to do with Sonny while we’re gone? And if we pay someone to look after him, does sales tax apply?

Tax ’em: States that tax pet sitting

Pet boarding services are generally taxable in several states, including:

Exempt ’em: States that don’t tax pet sitting

Pet boarding services generally aren’t subject to sales tax in other states, including:

It depends: Pet sitting fees are sometimes taxable, sometimes exempt

Several states tax certain pet boarding services but not others. For example:

Pet daycare services and pet boarding services are subject to Connecticut sales tax, but pet sitting at a pet owner’s home is exempt.

In Minnesotaanimal care services provided by persons who are in the business of providing such services are taxable, whether in-home care, in a care provider’s home, or boarding/kenneling. But services “provided by persons who are not in the business of providing animal care services” are exempt.

In New Jersey, dog sitting services provided in a client’s home are exempt so long as any property transferred is “inconsequential and not separately charged for.” Yet animal boarding, day care, or pet sitting services provided at a facility are taxable.

Wisconsin taxes pet boarding services provided by a professional boarder at a professional boarding establishment. Similar services provided at the home of a pet owner or pet sitter are exempt — if the owner provides the pet food and food dishes.

Bring ’em: Pet fees at hotels may be subject to sales tax

Those among us who choose to travel with our pets, as I sometimes do, have undoubtedly run across pet fees. Hotels, motels, inns, B & Bs, and vacation rentals that allow pets typically charge guests an extra fee for the privilege of having the pet in-house.

In Washington, pet fees are subject to retail sales tax and any applicable local lodging taxes. So when we take Sonny with us to an in-state hotel, we pay tax on his lodging; whereas if he stays home with a pet sitter, we don't.

In South Dakota, pet fees and deposits are subject to all applicable taxes (state sales tax, municipal sales tax, municipal gross receipts tax, and tourism tax). However, the tax is refunded if the deposit is refunded.

Texas hotel tax applies to pet charges and pet cleaning fees, plain and simple. Phew!

Dog walking services can be taxable or exempt

Back here in Washington, we don’t pay sales tax when we pay the neighbor to come over and walk/play with Sonny while we’re away for a day (or we wouldn’t, if we ever get around to asking the neighbor to do it). Those services are exempt in Washington. Dog walking services are also exempt in Texas and Wisconsin.

It’s less clear if tax applies to a neighbor’s dog walking services in Minnesota. If you pay a neighbor to drop by and play with/feed your dog in your absence, tax probably doesn't apply. However, if the neighbor has established a business of providing these services, or advertises these services for sale, sales tax likely would apply. Extra charges (for walking, picking up poop, etc.) are also taxable. Presumably this is true no matter how old the neighbor, or how advertising occurs.

In New York, “pet sitting services rendered by an individual who is hired directly by a private home owner or lessee, and who does not offer these services to the public as part of a regular trade or business, are not subject to sales tax.” However, sales tax does apply to pet sitting/dog walking services provided by a person in the business of pet sitting or dog walking. This is because “pets are considered to be tangible personal property … [and] the maintaining and servicing of pets is taxable.” 

That said, New York doesn't tax any goods or services needed to acquire, sustain, or maintain a guide dog, hearing dog, or service dog.

Connecticut taxes … cuddles?

Then there’s Connecticut, which is worth a special callout. According to the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services:

  • Dog walking services are exempt when on their own but taxable when “provided in connection with dog boarding services”
  • Pet bathing services are taxable unless provided as “an integral part of professional veterinary services”
  • Fees for dog socials provided by boarding or daycare businesses are taxable; but if a paid pet sitter takes your dog to the dog park to socialize, tax doesn’t apply
  • Charges to give your pooch a little extra love and attention, such as “cuddle sessions, walks, treadmill or swim time, or supervised play time” are subject to sales tax when provided by a pet boarding facility but exempt when provided by a pet sitter at the pet owner’s home

What has the world come to, that we have to pay a person to cuddle a dog?

It's amazing how complex the answers to simple sales tax questions can be. We strive to make sales tax requirements easy to understand at the Avalara Tax Desk.

Recent posts
November 2023 Roundup: Tax laws you need to know 
W-9 101: What is a W-9, who gets one, what does it do?
New York may reduce sales tax rate for small businesses
2023 Tax Changes blue report with orange background

It’s here — Read Avalara Tax Changes 2023

Review tax updates and trends, plus get a forecast of what’s to come

Go to the report 

Stay up to date

Sign up for our free newsletter and stay up to date with the latest tax news.