“DEAR MR COLUMNIST: I have six beloved offspring but they are all cats. Can I list them as ‘dependents’ in my tax form?”
Dear Cat Person: Yes, you can. If you don’t mind going to jail.
You cannot claim a tax break on pets, which is ridiculous since they cost more than humans to look after these days. Fact: In the past month, my household had two medical bills to pay: One for me for US$7, and one for the dog for US$256. Like any sane person, I am deeply tempted to eat the dogs’ pills and give her mine.
The good news is that it may not be long before pet owners ARE able to list their four-legged “children” as family members. Asia is becoming animal-friendly.
Evidence: On the morning of writing this, the newspaper features a photograph of Black Hood Man being led away from a Hong Kong apartment block by police for accidentally killing a turtle. (This is one seriously bad dude, who seems to be at every crime scene.) Anyway, there’s more media coverage for this accidental pet death (the turtle tank was left near a window) than for much more shocking Hong Kong crimes, such murder, drug-pushing, knowingly buying Cantopop CDs, etc.
The day before writing this I met TWO couples who have pets instead of children. That’s a hundred per cent of the people I met yesterday. If we extrapolate these figures to the rest of the region (sorry, but as a journalist I am professionally obliged to do ridiculous things like this), that means NOBODY is having children.
(Pic of children entertaining themselves)
After one generation, Asia will be inhabited only by small dogs called Fruffy. On the plus side, this should trigger a rise in the level of intellectual discourse.
But the fact is, Asia will surely follow the US, where there are already powerful campaigns to have pets recognized as children for tax purposes.
Regulating claims will be tricky.
Inspector: “You claimed an exemption for a dog. May we see the dog please?”
Taxpayer: “Er, it’s gone out.”
Inspector: “Without you?”
Taxpayer: It’s a very independent dog.”
Inspector: “May I wait?”
Taxpayer: “Actually, it’s on holiday and I don’t know when it’ll return. Dogs never tell you anything.”
And what happens when owners of pets other than cats and dogs start to demand exemptions? What if you have ten hamsters, or 25 performing fleas?
“Dear Tax Department, I wish to claim child benefit for the 10 million pet bacteria I keep on a furry gray pot of yoghurt in the fridge. Their names are attached.”
A person reading this article over my shoulder (GO AWAY) has just pointed out that some pets, such as guide dogs, are ALREADY tax-exempted in many countries, if they are owned by someone who has a disadvantage, such as poor hearing or defective eyesight.
Interesting, although I suspect that the list of recognized disadvantages will not include any of the defects my family members, my colleagues and I have: Brainlessness, laziness, evilness, clumsiness, smelliness, humorlessness, etc.
Now I need to stop writing this and go and take my pill. Or the dog’s. After all, I paid for it.
PETS OR KIDS? Does it matter?