The Korea Herald


Tax cut takes edge off vet bills

Governments considers VAT exemption for wider range of vetinary care services as early as this year

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : April 5, 2023 - 17:22

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Medical expenses for pets are expected to go down as the South Korean government is looking to get rid of the value-added tax-imposed pet care services.

According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance on Wednesday, the government has recently started an internal review process to scrap the existing VAT on some pet care services.

Under the current decree relating to animal healthcare, 10 percent VAT is charged on pet care services here.

Some veterinary care services, such as vaccinations, neutering surgery and clinical pathology, have already been VAT-free, but only certain animals are subject to the tax exemption: mobility assistance dogs, animals protected under the Livestock Products Sanitary Control Act, and sea animals protected under the Aquatic Life Disease Control Act.

The Finance Ministry plans to discuss the VAT exemption with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs after carrying out research on veterinary care services and their costs.

After the review, the final decision on the tax exemption is expected to be made as early as this year as no parliamentary approval is required for the revision.

The Agriculture Ministry said fees for medical checkup and hospitalization will be the first two pet care services to get the VAT exemption, before more are added.

While introducing the tax benefit to pet care services, the government will also make a major overhaul in the country’s pet care system, by making a more comprehensive and standardized list of pet care services that every veterinary hospital can use as a guideline when diagnosing pets.

Previously, local pet owners cried foul over significantly different fees that veterinary hospitals charged.

The government hopes that the standardization of pet care services will help pet owners to get a better estimate of pet medical expenses even if they visit different hospitals.

The government has already finished standardizing 10 different veterinary services, including otitis externa, atopic dermatitis and neutering.

The government aims to complete standardizing 50 additional veterinary services this year and complete the standardization of 100 pet care services by 2024.

The government’s recent efforts in reforming the pet care system are in line with President Yoon Suk Yeol’s campaign pledges.

During his presidential campaign, Yoon promised to introduce new policies that can reduce pet owners' costs amid the country’s increasing number of pets.

According to the Agriculture Ministry’s report released in February, 1 out of 4 Koreans had a dog or cat in 2022, which is equivalent to over 10 million people.

But the monthly average spending for one pet increased to 150,000 won ($1,141), up by 30,000 won from the previous year.