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"Dear Mr. Tax Person: I have six
children but they are all cats.
Can I list them as 'dependants'
in my tax form?"
"Dear Cat Lover: Yes, you can fill in their
names as 'dependants' on your tax form. You
will, however, go to prison. So think about
where you'd like to live before making a final
The good news is that it may not be long
before pet owners actually are able to list their
four-legged "children" on their tax forms. You
see, Hong Kong is becoming steadily more
In the newspaper, there's a photograph
of Black Hood Man being led away from his
apartment block by police. (Hong Kong has
so little crime that the newspapers secretly
fund a guy called Black Hood Man to do
things that keep the crime pages filled.) His
latest crime? Leaving his terrarium near a
window, allowing a turtle to fall to its death.
He's getting more coverage for this incident
than for his usual, terrible crimes, such as
robbery, arson and buying Eason Chan CDs.
The day before writing this article, I met
two couples, both of whom have house ani-
mals instead of children. That's 100 percent
of the people I met that day. If we extrapolate
these figures to the rest of the city (sorry, but
as a journalist I am obliged to do ridiculous
things like this), that means nobody is hav-
ing children. After one generation, Hong
Kong will be inhabited only by small white
dogs named Fluffy. On the positive side,
this may trigger a rise in the level of intel-
lectual discourse in the Oriental Daily News,
Apple Daily, etc.
Pets are not just ubiquitous: they are ex-
pensive. 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.
Once a society takes pet worship to this
extreme, major changes follow. Hong Kong
will probably take after the United States,
where there are powerful campaigns to have
pets recognized as children for tax purposes.
"This past winter I spent US$2,500 in a week
trying to save my kitten's life," wrote a woman
named Heather Neff in an Internet discussion
on the topic. "They are our babies even if they
Regulating the claims will be tricky, so
we need to set up a pet tax consultancy. For
legitimate pet owners, we fill in their forms.
For the Inland Revenue Department, we
supply inspectors to go to people's homes to
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." In-
spector: "May I wait?" Taxpayer: "Actually, it's
on holiday and I don't know when it'll return.
You know dogs, they never tell you anything."
The challenges will escalate when own-
ers of pets, other than cats and dogs, start to
demand the same exemptions. What if you
have 10 hamsters or 25 performing fleas? You
could try making a rule that pets can't be too
small, but you'll be accused of size discrimi-
nation. Where will it end? "Dear Commis-
sioner of Inland Revenue: I have 10 million
pet bacteria I keep on a furry grey pot of yo-
ghurt in the fridge. I wish to claim child ben-
efits for all of them."
A person reading this article over my
shoulder has just pointed out that dogs
are already tax-exempted in many places,
if they are owned by someone who has
a disadvantage, such as poor hearing or
Interesting, although I suspect that the list
of acceptable disadvantages for such schemes
will not include any of the defects my col-
leagues and family members have: brainless-
ness, laziness, evilness, clumsiness, smelli-
ness, humourlessness, etc.
Now I need to go and take my pill. Or
Nury Vittachi is a bestselling author, columnist, lecturer and
TV host. He wrote the Institute's first two storybooks, May
Moon and the Secrets of the CPAs and May Moon Rescues
the World Economy. A third, May Moon's Book of Choices,
was published in 2012.
Get your daily dose of Nury's humour at www.mrjam.org
Let's get fiscal
Income tax: my pet topic
Four-legged dependants can lower your liability,
says Nury Vittachi
claims will be
tricky, so we need
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