Your Guide to Dog Walker and Sitter Tax Write-offs

As a professional dog walker and/or sitter, you can save hundreds (even thousands!) of dollars at tax time by deducting business expenses. That’s because every time you write off an expense, you lower your taxable income – putting the money you spend on your business back in your pocket.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

When it comes to deducting business expenses, there are certain regulations you need to follow:

  1. Business expenses must be both ordinary (commonly accepted in your trade) and necessary (helpful and appropriate for your business). The expenses we list below fall into this category.

  2. The IRS requires documentation of any business expense you deduct. That’s why it’s so important to track your expenses during the year. If you didn’t track your expenses last year, don’t worry; our guide shows you how to retroactively find deductible expenses.

  3. Because there’s always a chance you may be audited, save your business receipts for at least three years after you file your taxes.

Dog Walker and Sitter Tax Deductions

If you’re a dog walker and/or sitter, here are 11 deductible expenses you should keep track of throughout the year:

1. Mileage: Keep track of all your business-related trips! While there are many ways to do this (like taking odometer readings before and after trips), the easiest method is to use an app like Stride Tax that records mileage while you drive:

  • Between your home office and walking/sitting. If you don’t have a home office used exclusively for work, your first trip from home to a client (and from your last client back home) are not deductible.

  • Between clients, between work-related errands, or from the client’s home to where you’ll walk/play with the dog (e.g. a dog park)

  • Between your home office and work-related errands, like picking up work supplies (e.g. buying a new dog harness).

If you choose to take the standard mileage deduction, keep in mind that you cannot deduct individual vehicle expenses like gas, oil changes, car repairs, and car insurance.

2. Public Transportation: If you don’t drive to your dog-walking appointments, you can deduct public transit fares, as well as the business percentage costs for maintaining your bicycle.

3. Cell Phone Bills: Do you use your phone exclusively for business? You can fully deduct related expenses (including the phone purchase and monthly bills). If you also use your phone for personal reasons, you should only deduct the portion used for business. The best way to do this is to calculate what percentage of your calls were work-related and then claim that percentage of your bill.

4. Business Cards: Designing and printing business cards is a deductible marketing expense.

5. Printing and Copying: Keep your receipt anytime you print or copy work-related materials like marketing flyers, brochures, and office records. Print jobs are deductible!

6. Business Supplies: Items you purchase to grow and sustain your business are deductible. This includes equipment like:

dog walker tax write offs
  • Poop bags

  • Dog treats

  • Walking shoes

  • Rain gear

  • Tennis balls

  • Treats

  • Leashes

Here’s the catch: these items must be used exclusively for your business, so don’t play tennis with your dog park balls!

7. Advertising: When you invest in promoting your business, keep track of how much you spend! Online ads, signs, print ads, radio ads, postcards, and more are all deductible.

8. Promotional Goodies: Do you give away goodies like branded tennis balls or poop bags to promote your business? You can deduct these, too!

9. Parking: Anytime you have to pay for parking while you’re working, save your receipts; these expenses are deductible. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to parking tickets or traffic violations, so drive safely!

10. Tolls: Any toll fees you pay while working are tax deductible as long as they’re not already being reimbursed.

11. Health Insurance: As long as you don’t get health insurance via a spouse or employer, you can deduct 100 percent of your monthly premiums. Keep in mind that if you receive a government subsidy, you can only write off the amount you pay each month (not the original price of your plan). Note: your health insurance premiums are taken as a personal deduction on Form 1040, NOT deducted as a business expense.

Some Common Expenses You Can’t Deduct

The IRS deems some common expenses as non-deductible. These include:

  • Personal hygiene expenses, like haircuts, clothing that can be reasonably worn outside of work, and dry cleaning (unless it’s for a uniform)

  • Legal violation fees, like parking tickets or court fees

  • Commuting mileage if you work at a permanent office away from home

  • Life insurance premiums when you are the beneficiary, even if you take the policy out to secure a business loan

An Easy Way to Track Your Expenses

Have you tried our free expense tracker? Stride Tax is an app that makes it simpler than ever to find deductible expenses, take pictures of receipts, and automatically record business mileage.

Aly KellerComment