Client FAQ: Deductible Medical Expenses

Q. Last year I underwent a number of elective surgical procedures and would like to deduct the cost of these expensive procedures on my personal tax return. What are the criteria for medical expenses to be deductible? Do they have to exceed a certain dollar amount?

A. While many medical expenses are clearly deductible, such as amounts paid for doctors/dentists, insurance premiums, prescription drugs, etc.., there are certain medical expenses that are not so easily identifiable as deductible and may require certain conditions be present to be considered deductible. Here are some examples of medical expenses that you should make sure you don’t miss on this year’s tax return:

Cosmetic Surgery.

In general, you cannot include in medical expenses the amount you pay for unnecessary cosmetic surgery. “Unnecessary cosmetic surgery” is defined as any procedure that is directed at improving the patient’s appearance and does not meaningfully promote the proper function of the body or prevent or treat illness or disease. Examples of these types of procedures include face-lifts, hair transplants, hair removal and liposuction. However, you can include in medical expenses the amount you pay for cosmetic surgery if it is necessary to improve a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease.

Stop Smoking Treatments.

A new law change in 1999 means that you can now include in medical expenses amounts you paid for a program to stop smoking. Keep in mind, however, that you cannot include in medical expenses amounts you paid for drugs that do not require a prescription, such as nicotine gum or patches, that are designed to help stop smoking.

Alcoholism treatment.

Medical expenses incurred in connection with an inpatient’s treatment at a therapeutic center for alcohol addiction (including meals and lodging provided by the center during treatment) are deductible medical expenses. In addition, if you receive medical advice that states that you should attend meetings of an Alcoholics Anonymous Club for the treatment of a disease involving the excessive use of alcoholic liquors, you are entitled to deduct medical transportation expenses (at 10 cents per mile) for travel to the meetings.

Capital expenditures.

Certain expenses you paid for special equipment installed in your home, or for improvements, may be deductible as medical expenses. To qualify, the main purpose of the expense is medical care for you, your spouse, or a dependent. The costs of permanent improvements that increase the value of the property may be partly included as a medical expense. These costs are deductible medical expenses to the extent that they exceed the increase in the value of the property. If the value of the property is not increased by the improvement, the entire cost is included as a medical expense.

Limit on deductibility.

Unfortunately, the IRS has imposed a rather steep threshold for the deduction of medical expenses. Taxpayers can deduct only the amount of their medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income.

If, as you are gathering your tax information, you have any questions about the potential deductibility of medical expenditure, please contact our office and we will be happy to assist you.

Please contact the office for more information on this subject and how it pertains to your specific tax or financial situation.