Saturday, November 28, 2015   

We're barking up wrong tree for tax help with medical bills

Friday, March 08, 2013


"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 stupid since they cost more than humans to look after.

In the past month, my household had two medical bills to pay: one for me for HK$50, and one for the dog for HK$2,000. Like any sane person, I am deeply tempted to eat the dog's 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. Hong Kong is becoming animal-friendly.

Evidence: On the morning of writing this, a newspaper features a photograph of Black Hood Man being led away from an apartment block by police for accidentally killing a turtle.

There's more media coverage for this accidental pet death (the turtle tank was left near a window) than for much more shocking crimes such as 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 100percent of those I met.

If we extrapolate these figures to the rest of the city, that means nobody is having children.

After one generation, Hong Kong will be inhabited only by small, white dogs called Fruffy. On the plus side, this should trigger a rise in the level of intellectual discourse.

But Hong Kong should eventually follow the United States, where there are already powerful campaigns to have pets recognized as children for tax purposes.

Tax 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 let on."

And what happens if you have 10 hamsters, or 25 performing fleas?

"Dear Tax Department: I wish to claim child benefit for the 10 million pet bacteria I keep on a gray pot of yogurt in the fridge. Their names are attached."

A person reading over my shoulder 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 disability.

I suspect that the list of recognized disabilities will not include any of the defects my family members 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.

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