Dogs are taxed as property in this state — Wacky Tax Wednesday
Plenty of states consider dogs to be tangible personal property, for tax purposes, so services related to dogs are either subject to sales tax or sales tax exempt. The same goes for services for humans, I know — some services are taxable and some are exempt — but something about classifying dogs as “tangible personal property” gets my hackles up. Our sweet pooch is an important member of our family, not an armchair or a rug.
In any event, I recently discovered there’s more than one way to tax a dog. For example, dogs may be subject to Connecticut personal property tax, Minnesota personal property tax, and West Virginia personal property tax.
Let’s dig into West Virginia personal property tax first, because it’s the most fun.
Dogs are subject to West Virginia personal property tax
According to West Virginia law, “Any dog shall be and is hereby declared to be personal property within the meaning and construction of the laws of this state, and any dog above the age of six months shall be subject to taxation.”
That said, registered guide dogs and support dogs are not subject to West Virginia personal property tax.
Assessing and collecting the West Virginia personal property tax on dogs (and other taxable animals) falls to each county assessor and should be done “at the time they are making assessment of the personal property within such county.” The minimum dog tax (also called a head tax) in the Mountain State is $3, though a municipality may impose an additional dog tax by ordinance.
How is the West Virginia dog tax enforced?
County assessors are responsible for collecting and administering the West Virginia personal property tax on dogs.
Here’s how Pocahontas County handles it. The Pocahontas County Assessor attempts to visit every residence in the county each year between July 1 and October 1, to update personal property information. One of the assessor’s tasks is to count the number of dogs (or goats or sheep, as they’re also subject to personal property tax) owned, which sounds like a lot of fun. Taxpayers are invited to pay the personal property tax they owe on their dog, goat, and sheep at the time of the assessor’s visit.
West Virginia personal property tax applies to all dogs six months or older as of June 30. If a dog ages past six months after the personal property assessment took place, and the tax wasn’t already paid for the year, the owner (or person responsible for the dog) is required to register the dog and pay the head tax within 10 days.
Pocahontas County dog taxes can be paid online or by mail. The instructions for mail payments read: “Write the breed, sex, age, hair color, and hair length (short, medium, or long) on a slip of paper with your name and return address and send it with a check made payable to the Pocahontas County Dog Fund for the proper amount.” It doesn’t sound very official, but apparently that’s how it’s done.
Alternatively, Pocahontas County dog owners can print and fill out the personal property form and send it in with the payment.
How much is the Pocahontas County dog tax? It has to be at least $3 per the law, but the exact amount varies depending on where you live:
$3 within the districts of Edray, Green Bank, Huntersville, and Little Levels
$6 within the corporations of Durbin, Hillsboro, and Marlinton
The goat tax and sheep tax is $1 per head of breeding age no matter where in the county the goats and sheep are.
What happens if you don’t pay West Virginia personal property tax?
If whoever is responsible for the dog fails to pay the tax within 15 days of the assessment, the assessor or deputy assessor can “certify such tax” to the county dog warden or sheriff, “who shall take charge of the dog for which the tax is delinquent and impound the same for a period of 15 days.”
If a dog is impounded, its person has to pay the delinquent tax and applicable impounding charges within the 15 days to release the dog. If the delinquent tax and impounding charges aren’t paid within the time allowed, the dog can be sold. In that case, the impounding charge and delinquent tax would be deducted from the amount received for the dog, and the owner would be sent the balance.
And if no one buys the dog, well, I don’t want to go there.
Other people must feel the same, for there have been attempts to repeal the dog tax. House Bill 4051, the Save All Baby Dogs Act of 2022, is one example. Then again, some lawmakers have tried to expand the personal property tax to cats. Do you suppose these lawmakers are cat people or dog people?
West Virginia may be one of the most interesting states when it comes to personal property taxes and dogs. However, it isn’t the only state to treat and tax our best friends as personal property.
Dogs are personal property in Connecticut
“All dogs are deemed to be personal property” in Connecticut, but Connecticut personal property tax doesn’t actually apply to dogs. “License fees” are “in lieu of any tax on any dog” in Connecticut.
While West Virginia law talks about what can happen if you fail to pay the tax you owe on your dog, Connecticut law talks about what can happen to “any person who steals a dog.” Fascinating.
The Connecticut personal property tax statutes are also interesting because they provide a bit of historical context. “History: 1963 act provided that license fees are in lieu of any tax on any dog rather than in lieu of tax on dog ‘of the value of one hundred dollars or less.’” That law was replaced in 1971.
Dogs are subject to Minnesota personal property tax
Dogs are considered personal property and taxed as such in Minnesota too. The state statutes note that “all real and personal property in this state is taxable, except Indian lands and such other property as is by law exempt from taxation,” and also reference “laws relating to taxation of dogs as personal property.” That said, the fact that dogs are considered personal property and taxed as personal property isn’t talked about like it is in West Virginia.
I could keep going; it’s easy to get absorbed once you start digging into property tax laws. But my dog needs a walk, and so do I. If you want to learn more about property tax and how to make property tax compliance simpler, check out our other property tax blogs.
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