Jan Van Dusen is a volunteer and foster parent for Fix Our Ferals, a charitable organization in California dedicated to TNRing community cats. She has been caring for about 70 cats in her home, while she works to find them new homes. She has also been keeping track of the associated expenses her volunteering has incurred, on items like veterinary bills, food, litter, and a portion of her utility bills. Now, most accountants would advise against individuals claiming such deductions on their taxes, unless they are prepared to be challenged by the IRS. And that is exactly what happened to Ms. Van Dusen; the IRS came knocking.
|Photo Credit: Michael Mullady for the Wall Street Journal|
Representing herself in court, Ms. Van Dusen explained to the judge what each of the deductions was for and that she volunteers her services and uses her own money to help cats from Fix Our Ferals find permanent homes. According to Ms. Van Dusen, IRS lawyers tried to discredit her case by playing up that she is “crazy cat lady,” but Van Dusen said the judge in her case was very patient and ended up ruling in her favor, saying in a 42-page decision that some of her bills “were unreimbursed expenses incurred to help a charitable group in its mission.” It is still unclear the total deduction Ms. Van Dusen won, but according to the Humane Soceity of the United States, “It estimates that many…volunteers spend up to $2,000 of their own money a year to help animals in need, with some spending up to $15,000 a year when all expenses are counted.”
The IRS has 90 days to appeal to a federal appeals court regarding this case. Hopefully the ruling will stand and provide precedent for countless animal volunteers who selflessly acquire hefty bills while providing their community a much-needed service. To read the entire story, click here.