DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

January 30, 2014

About the Law: Service dogs may not be deductible

About the Law
Andrew Myers

---- — I am in counseling and my doctor wrote a note for me to have a dog for clinical depression and bipolar disorder. My dog isn’t a registered service dog. That costs too much. Can I claim the dog on my taxes?

The IRS allows a medical expense deduction for guide dogs or other service animals where they assist the visually impaired, the hearing disabled or those with other physical disabilities. The policy, explained in IRS publication 502 refers to a “service animal.”

In an “information letter,” the IRS acknowledged that costs associated with a service animal “may” qualify for deduction where the taxpayer establishes the animal is used primarily for medical care to alleviate “a mental defect or illness,” and the animal’s expense would not be paid but for the disease or illness.

So, potential deductions for service animals seem to have expanded from those helping with physical ailments to those with mental issues. But the rules refer to service animals or animals that wouldn’t be in the picture without the ailment. Where your dog is not registered and appears to be in the picture with or without the doctor’s note, no deduction.

This is a general interest newspaper column, not tax advice. Don’t do anything without a CPA or other tax professional. IRS disclaimers advise me to caution that this is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties or promoting, marketing or recommending any transaction.

I filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy three years ago. It went along OK and I got a discharge. At this point, how can I get a loan and from what bank?

I’m not in the business of recommending any one bank. I also hate seeing people drag themselves down with new loans.

But, as the U.S. Supreme Court held many years ago, bankruptcy is intended to give “the honest but unfortunate debtor … a new opportunity in life.” The case of Local Loan Co. v. Hunt stands for the idea that bankruptcy gives honest debtors a fresh start.

What is the purpose of the loan? If for a car, generally car loans are available after and even during bankruptcy because they’re secured loans. That means if there’s no payment, the car can be repossessed.

Bankruptcy filers often get credit card invitations within months after discharge. One reason is that a second Chapter 7 can’t be filed for eight years. So, they can nail you with impunity through collection actions.

Carefully read all credit and loan applications, especially the small print. Compare interest rates, fees and charges to other loans and credit cards.

So, car loans, credit cards and even mortgages should not be a big deal to obtain. The important thing is to get the right loan which you know you can pay regularly and early. Having filed bankruptcy, your interest rate may be higher on secured loans. But be careful before jumping head first into credit cards again.

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Andrew Myers of Derry has law offices in Derry and North Andover. He is a member of the American Association for Justice and the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. Send questions to andrew@attorney-myers.com.