A tax break for pet owners

California pet and animal owners wouldn’t pay sales tax on medicines purchased from a local veterinarian under legislation proposed by the state Board of Equalization.


The proposal recognizes the reality that many of California’s estimated 18 million pet owners search the Internet to avoid paying sales tax on medications prescribed by a veterinarian.


“Making pet medicine tax-free will benefit California pet owners and veterinarians. It also benefits Californians by keeping more dollars in our state and promoting animal health,” said Board of Equalization member George Runner, who voted along with the rest of the five-member board to support the proposal earlier this week.


The board’s chair, Jerome Horton, pitched the idea to his four colleagues. Initial estimates are the state would lose $10 million in revenue by the change in law.

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, a Stockton Democrat and cat lover, will carry the legislation.


“Providing health care for pets is expense,” Galgiani said. “This allows veterarniarins to get medicines at a cheaper rate and pass those savings onto consumers.”


The Californian Veterinary Medical Association says there are 19 million companion animal pets in California. An American Veterinary Medical Association survey found that 53 percent of California’s 12.4 million households owned at least one of 15 species of animal including dogs, cats, birds, horses and iguanas.


Because they’re considered consumers and must pay tax on any drugs or medicines they purchase for use or resale, veterinarians would benefit from the proposed legislation.


“This change in law would  help vets in California be competitive,” Runner told California’s Capitol. “Right now, they’re at an economic disadvantage. It would be better for pets, better for pet owners and better for the business climate in California.”


The proposal will be amended into Galgiani’s SB 688 before the end of March, her office says.


According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about half of all states currently exempt animal prescription drugs and medications from taxation.

Ed’s Note: This story originally appeared in California’s Capitol, a political blog edited by Greg Lucas.

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