A “crazy” cat lady makes some history
Van Dusen, 59, is a former family-law attorney who lives alone (not counting the cats) in Oakland, Calif., where she’s a volunteer and foster care provider for an organization called Fix Our Ferals, which traps, neuters and cares for stray and feral cats.
In her 2004 tax return, Van Dusen deducted $12,068 in expenses related to caring for foster cats in her modest home – food, veterinarian bills, cat litter, paper towels, garbage bags, and a portion of her utility bills.
The IRS, as you might guess, said no, declaring the costs she incurred caring for strays as “nondeductible personal expenses,” as opposed to charitable contributions.
Van Dusen — and we’re sure all 70 cats agreed — didn’t think that was right and contested the IRS decision.
In 2009, the case wound up in Tax Court, where Van Dusen represented herself because she couldn’t afford a lawyer.
“If it came down to helping a cat with a medical problem or saving for retirement, I would spend on the cat’s care—as will a lot of rescue workers,” she told the Wall Street Journal, which carried a story Saturday about her victory.
According to the Journal, it was also a victory for animal rescue volunteers across the country, and volunteers in general. There are more than 1.5 million IRS-recognized charities, the article said, and the ruling makes clear that unreimbursed expenses incurred by volunteers working for them are deductible.
Van Dusen learned she had won her case earlier this month. “I was stunned,” she said. “It feels great to have established this precedent.”
She said her pretrial dealings with the IRS were “intimidating.” Once in court, she said, the agency’s lawyers “tried to portray me as a crazy cat lady.” The judge, Richard Morrsion, patiently allowed her to state her case.
“He had to go through all these receipts from Costco and ask questions like, ‘What were these paper towels used for?’ ”
Under his ruling, Van Dusen was allowed to deduct most of some bills and half of others for care of the feral cats. The judge stopped short of granting her total deduction because she didn’t have a valid letter from the charity acknowledging her volunteer work.
The IRS declined to comment on the case. It has 90 days to contest the ruling in federal appeals court.
(Photo: By Michael Mullady; source: Wall Street Journal)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
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