Are Medical Expenses Tax Deductible?

Updated on January 8, 2024

At a Glance

  • Medical expenses can be tax-deductible, but eligibility hinges on exceeding 7.5% of your AGI.
  • Deductible expenses cover diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.
  • Non-deductible items, like gym memberships, are typically unrelated to medical conditions.
  • Itemizing deductions on Form 1040 is crucial, and with an AGI of $50,000, expenses over $3,750 may qualify for a deduction.

Are medical expenses tax deductible? The answer can have a significant impact on your finances. Navigating the complexities of the IRS tax code can be daunting, but with our insights, you’ll understand the ins and outs of medical expenses tax deductions and how to maximize your savings.

Understanding Deductible Medical Expenses

What qualifies as deductible medical expenses? According to the IRS, medical expenses include:

  • payments for the diagnosis
  • cure
  • mitigation
  • treatment
  • prevention of disease
  • treatments affecting any part or function of the body

For a detailed list of deductible expenses, consult IRS Publication 502.

  • Example: Diabetic expenses like insulin and testing kits are tax-deductible, offering financial relief to those managing this condition.

Which Medical Expenses Cannot Be Deducted?

Like with education expenses and dental expenses, not all medical expenses are tax deductible. Non-deductible items are typically not directly related to a medical condition, such as gym memberships or diet foods.

Criteria for Deducting Medical Expenses

To qualify for a medical expenses tax deduction, your expenses must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Itemizing deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040) is essential, as outlined in IRS Tax Topic 502.

  • Example: With an AGI of $50,000, any medical expense beyond $3,750 could potentially qualify for a deduction.

Methodically Deducting Medical Expenses

The deduction process is methodical. Itemize deductions using Schedule A (Form 1040), ensure your expenses surpass 7.5% of AGI, retain all medical expense receipts, and note that only unreimbursed expenses are deductible.

List of Deductible Medical Expenses

A broad range of medical costs are deductible, from healthcare provider fees to prescribed medications and essential surgeries. They include:

Medical Expense CategoryDescription
Payments to Doctors, Dentists, Surgeons, and Other Medical PractitionersFees paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.
Hospital Care and Nursing Home ServicesIncluding the cost of meals and lodging charged by the hospital or nursing home.
AcupuncturePayments for acupuncture treatments.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse TreatmentCosts of programs for treatment.
Ambulance and Health Care Transportation CostsExpenses for ambulance services and other healthcare-related transportation.
Annual Physical ExaminationsIncluding diagnostic tests administered as part of the examination.
Artificial Limbs and Prosthetic DevicesExpenses for artificial limbs, eyes, and related maintenance.
Bandages and Related ItemsCosts of medical supplies such as bandages.
Birth Control PillsPrescribed by a doctor.
Body Scan (CAT Scan, MRI, etc.)Cost of diagnostic imaging.
Braille Books and MagazinesPart of the cost that exceeds the regular printed edition price.
Breast Pumps and Lactation Supplies
ChiropractorFees paid for chiropractic care.
Christian Science PractitionerPayments for medical care.
Contact LensesIncluding the cost of saline solution and enzyme cleaner.
CrutchesRental or purchase costs.
Dental TreatmentsSuch as X-rays, fillings, braces, extractions, dentures.
DermatologistMedical care provided by a dermatologist.
Diagnostic DevicesSuch as blood sugar test kits for diabetics.
Drug Addiction TreatmentIncluding food and lodging provided by a therapeutic center for drug addiction.
Eye Exams and EyeglassesCost of eye examinations and prescription glasses.
Fertility EnhancementIncluding in vitro fertilization or surgery to reverse prior surgery that prevented the person operated on from having children.
Guide Dog or Other Service AnimalCosts of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal to assist a visually impaired or hearing-disabled person, or a person with other physical disabilities.
Hearing AidsCost and maintenance of hearing aids.
Home Care ServicesPart-time or full-time nursing care.
Home Improvements for Medical CareSuch as ramps, grab bars, and modifications for wheelchair accessibility (subject to certain limitations).
Hospice Care
Insulin and Related Prescriptions
Laboratory FeesAssociated with medical care.
Laser Eye SurgerySuch as LASIK.
Lead-Based Paint RemovalOnly if the paint is causing a medical condition and other conditions are met.
Legal Fees Paid to Authorize Treatment for Mental Illness
Long-Term Care ServicesSubject to certain conditions.
Medical Conferences and SeminarsIf related to a chronic illness suffered by you, your spouse, or your dependents.
Medical Records ChargesFees for copying and summarizing.
Medical Supplies and EquipmentSuch as wheelchairs, walkers, and oxygen equipment.
Medicines and DrugsPrescription drugs and insulin.
Nursing ServicesIncluding wages and taxes for nursing services.
Obstetrical ExpensesPrenatal care and childbirth.
OperationsSurgical fees, excluding unnecessary cosmetic surgery.
OptometristMedical care provided by an optometrist.
Organ TransplantsIncluding donor costs.
OrthodontiaBraces and related treatments.
Orthopedic Shoes and InsertsIf prescribed by a doctor.
OsteopathMedical care provided by an osteopath.
Oxygen and Oxygen Equipment
Physical Exams
Physical Therapy
Psychiatric Care
PsychologistTherapeutic care provided by a psychologist.
Special EducationIncluding tuition fees, tutoring, and special supplies for a child with learning disabilities if recommended by a doctor.
Sterilization Procedures
Stop-Smoking Programs
SurgeryExcluding cosmetic surgery that is not medically necessary.
Telephone Equipment for the Hearing Impaired
Television EquipmentThe part of the cost that exceeds the price of a regular item, for equipment that displays the audio part of television programming as subtitles for the hearing impaired.
TherapyFor a specific medical condition.
Transportation ExpensesRelated to medical care, including standard mileage rates or actual expenses for car, bus, taxi, train, or plane fares, and ambulance services.
Weight-Loss ProgramsFor a specific disease diagnosed by a physician, such as obesity, hypertension, or heart disease.
WheelchairCost and maintenance.
WigPurchased upon the advice of a physician because of hair loss due to disease.
X-ray Fees

Generally speaking, medical expenses not listed above need to be paid out-of-pocket or with alternative funding sources such as medical loans.

Non-Qualifying Medical Expenses

Expenses for general health or cosmetic purposes are typically not deductible. This includes most cosmetic surgeries (which can be paid for with loans) and non-prescription drugs, barring insulin.

  • Example: Cosmetic dental treatments, such as teeth whitening, are not eligible for tax deduction.

Deducting Medical Expenses for Dependents

The medical expenses tax deduction extends to dependents’ medical costs. In some cases, even medical expenses for former spouses can be included if certain conditions are met.

  • Example: Deductible expenses can include a dependent’s necessary dental treatments, like orthodontics if they exceed the 7.5% AGI threshold.

The Distinction Between Tax Credits and Deductions

It’s essential to understand the difference between tax credits, which directly reduce your tax liability, and deductions, which lower your taxable income. The Premium Tax Credit is a notable health-related tax credit.

Special Considerations for Seniors and the Disabled

Older adults and people with disabilities might have different kinds of deductions, like for long-term care. Check the HUD guidelines for more about housing costs related to health.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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