Health & Medicine

Check out these 8 medical deductions before doing your taxes

If your doctor says you need to lose weight to manage a diagnosed illness, you can write-off subscription fees to a weight loss program.
If your doctor says you need to lose weight to manage a diagnosed illness, you can write-off subscription fees to a weight loss program. File photo

It’s tax time and if you’ve racked up medical expenses in 2017, you may qualify for some lesser known medical deductions.

These deductions can be claimed if your medical expenses are more than 7 ½ percent of your adjusted gross income, according to Internal Revenue Service’s Publication 502.

“In order to get enough to be deductible, you have to be very low-income or you have to be very sick because it has to be more than 7 ½ percent of your income,” said Karen McDougal, a CPA for McDougal and Company CPAs based in Natomas.

Once you hit that mark, however, you can write-off a myriad of medical expenses for birth control pills to psychiatric care and even a Christian Science practitioner.

To claim these deductibles, having documentation is key, McDougal said.

Before filing your return, local tax experts say you should check with a tax professional first.

Weight loss programs

If your doctor says you need to lose weight to manage a diagnosed illness, you can write off subscription fees to a weight loss program.

Programs like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers are only tax deductible if you’re using them to reduce the effects of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity or Type II diabetes among other conditions.

You can’t include the costs of diet food or drinks, the IRS states, because those items still count as food to satisfy a nutritional need. Nutritional supplements and vitamins don’t count either, unless they’re prescribed by your doctor.

You can’t deduct subscription fees if you’re using a weight-loss program just to get in shape. There has to be a medical need, McDougal said.

Gym, spa and health club memberships can’t be deducted.

You can’t write-off tap dance lessons either, said Randall Kilgore, a CPA at Kilgore and Company Accountancy based in Arden Arcade.

Medical travel

If you or one of your dependents must travel out of town for a doctor’s appointment, you can write off some of the travel costs. Once again, the appointment must be medically necessary.

“If I had to take my child to the Bay Area overnight (to see a specialist), I could deduct mileage, tolls and parking,” McDougal said.

According to the IRS, you also can deduct 17 cents per mile and up to $50 per person for lodging. You can deduct travel for an out-of-town doctor’s appointment if it is medically necessary.

Home improvements

If you have to make changes to your home to improve accessibility or accommodate a medical condition, those costs can be deductible.

The changes can include grab bars, stair lifts, ramps, widening doorways and lowering counters and cabinets, according to the IRS.

Kilgore said he’s seen people deduct the costs of installing a whirlpool tub or jacuzzi because a doctor prescribed it for a back injury. “Someone with a significant and debilitating injury might be allowed to deduct such a thing,” he said.

Mental health care

Since many insurance plans do not pay for chronic mental health care, any out of pocket costs for psychiatric care are deductible, too.

As long as the care is provided by a medical professional, this applies to counseling and some kinds of residential care, McDougal said. “Those are the things that really add up for people.”

And you can deduct costs of caregiving for an adult child if you’re paying a caregiver directly, she said.

Plastic surgery

If a plastic surgery procedure is prescribed by your doctor to address a medical condition, that’s also deductible.

Publication 502 says this applies to breast reconstruction surgeries after a mastectomy for cancer, or for surgery to correct a disfigurement resulting from an accident or disease.

Cheek filler, lip filler, Botox injections and teeth whitening are purely cosmetic and are not deductible, McDougal said.

Birth control and abortion

Women can deduct any out-of-pocket cost for birth control pills if they are prescribed by a doctor and not covered under an insurance plan. Also, medical expenses for a legal abortion can be claimed as a deduction.

Service animals

The cost of “buying, maintaining and training” a guide dog or other service animal is deductible, according to the IRS. As long as the animal assists with an impairment or disability, you can deduct payments for food, grooming and veterinary care.

Comfort animals are not eligible for a tax deduction, Kilgore said.

Alternative medicine

You can write off costs for acupuncture and the use of a Christian Science practitioner for medical care.

Even though marijuana is legal is California, it doesn't qualify for a medical deductible because it is still federally prohibited.