Pets: Love ‘em and Leave ‘em – Wacky Tax Wednesday
- Sales and Use Tax
- June 17, 2015 | Gail Cole
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 am utterly devoted to him.
Still, it is usually best to leave him home when we vacation. That’s definitely the better choice if we want to be able to relax, worry-free. 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?
Pet boarding services are taxable in a number of states, including the following:
- Connecticut (see below for additional information)
- Minnesota (when provided by persons who are in the business of providing animal care services, whether in-home care, in a care provider’s home, or boarding/kenneling)
- New York (when the services are not provided by a veterinarian but by a kennel/professional boarding establishment)
- Wisconsin (when provided by a professional boarder at a professional boarding establishment)
Pet boarding services are not subject to sales tax in many other states, including the following:
- Florida (when the services are provided by veterinarians)
- Minnesota (when the services are “provided by persons who are not in the business of providing animal care services”)
- Wisconsin (when at the pet owner’s home or a pet sitter’s, if owner provides the pet food and food dishes)
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 “taxed in the same manner as the other transient lodging charges…
[and] are therefore subject to retail sales tax and any applicable local taxes on lodging.” When we take Sonny with us to an in-state hotel, we pay tax on his lodging; whereas if he stays home and is boarded, retail sales tax does not apply (although the Service and Other Activities B&O tax does).
In Colorado Springs, Colorado, fees for a pet’s occupancy of guest rooms are subject to both the city sales and lodgers tax. Charges or fees for pet cleaning (cleaning the room after the stay), however, are exempt. That’s also true in Denver, even when deposit is not refunded. Yet in South Dakota, where pet fees and deposits are subject to all applicable taxes (state, municipal sales tax, municipal gross receipts tax, and tourism tax), the tax is refunded if the deposit is refunded. In Texas hotel tax applies to both pet charges and pet cleaning fees, plain and simple. Phew!
Back here in Washington, we don’t pay sales tax when we pay the neighbor boy 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 boy 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 wouldn’t apply. However, if “the neighbor has established a business of providing these services, or advertises these services for sale,” sales tax applies. 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 petting 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” (Department of Taxation and Finance Advisory Bulletin).
Then there’s Connecticut, which is worth a special call out. According to Connecticut Revenue Services:
- Pet daycare services and pet boarding services are subject to sales tax.
- 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.”
- Charges to give your pooch a little extra love and attention, such as “cuddle sessions, walks, treadmills, swim time, or supervising 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.
- Pet sitting at a pet owner’s home is exempt.
- 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.
I’m glad I’m not a pet owner, or in the pet business, in Connecticut. And what has the world come to, that we have to pay a person to cuddle a dog?
Ask a simple sales tax question and you get a long and convoluted answer. Typical.
Maybe we should all just stay home, and walk and cuddle our own dogs.