Although many medical expenses are deductible, others are not, and you need to know which is which

Medicines / Medical Expenses: What You Can't Deduct When Tax Time Comes Around
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March 10, 2017

As if your taxes weren't painful enough, sometimes you also have to factor in medical costs when budgeting your money. Though many medical expenses are deductible, others are not, and it's important that you know which is which.

Non-Deductible Medical Expenses

Below are some of the most common medical expenses that you can't write off at tax time, though the list is not exhaustive.

  1. Baby Care
  2. If you have to pay for infant or childcare so that either you, your spouse, or a dependent can receive medical or dental care, the cost is not deductible. Childcare expenses do not qualify as medical expenses.

  3. Cosmetic Surgery
  4. Any surgery done for aesthetic rather than medical reasons cannot be deducted. This includes surgeries for injuries received in accidents or similar traumatic incidents.

    The exception is surgery to improve the appearance of someone with a facial deformity or disfiguring illness.

  5. Funeral Costs
  6. Funeral expenses are not deductible, regardless of whether of person was a family member or someone else.

  7. Future Medical Costs
  8. Any medical expenses for care that you will or may get after the end of the tax year cannot be deducted. Costs for long-term insurance contracts and advance payments on lifetime care agreements are the exceptions.

  9. Health Club Memberships
  10. You can't deduct payments for a gym or health club, no matter why you joined.

  11. Household Assistance
  12. In-home services for cleaning or other necessities don't qualify for a deduction, even if hired on the suggestion of a medical professional. However, costs for in-home help for nursing and hygienic care can be deducted as long as the nurse is providing medical help or personal care.

  13. Illegal Controlled Substances
  14. You may not deduct medical expenses for controlled substances—like marijuana—meant to treat an illness if they are illegal under federal law. Note that this is true even in those states where the substance is legal under state law.

  15. Illegal or Unapproved Treatments
  16. Any costs associated with unapproved or illegal treatments are not deductible, including expenses for any medicine or treatment recommended by any type of doctor with or without a license. Experimental treatments are also excluded.

  17. Maternity Clothing
  18. You can't deduct the costs of maternity clothing that you buy while pregnant.

  19. Medications from International Sources
  20. Medicines imported to the U.S. from other countries are not deductible unless they are authorized to be distributed here. If you are located in another country and buy a medication there, and it is legal both there and in the U.S., you can deduct the cost.

  21. Nonprescription Medicines and Treatments
  22. Except for insulin, the cost of drugs not prescribed by a doctor are not deductible. Included in this category are treatments recommended, but not prescribed, by a doctor.

  23. Nutritional Supplements
  24. Unless your doctor recommends them to treat a particular medical problem diagnosed by a medical professional, you cannot deduct vitamins, herbal supplements, nutritional supplements, or other natural treatments.

  25. Personal Hygiene Items
  26. Everyday items meant to promote healthy hygienic habits, such as a toothbrush, are not deductible. The exception is any personal hygiene item meant to alleviate or treat a physical or mental illness or defect that is known and has been diagnosed.

    If a special or unique version of an everyday product is required for such a purpose, you may be able to deduct the difference in cost between the normal and the specialized versions.

  27. Swimming Lessons
  28. Even if they may help improve an illness or are recommended by a doctor, the costs of swimming and other similar lessons are not deductible.

  29. Teeth-Whitening Treatments
  30. Teeth-whitening treatments, whether performed by a professional or by an over-the-counter option, cannot be deducted.

  31. Veterinary Costs
  32. Unless the costs are for the care and treatment of a guide dog or other service animal, veterinary costs are not deductible. Medical expenses for service animals must have been recommended by a doctor to alleviate or treat a diagnosed medical condition.

  33. Weight Loss Expenses
  34. Medical expenses for the membership and purchase of meals or supplements in a weight loss program are not deductible if you enrolled to improve either your appearance or health. However, payments may be deductible if you enrolled to treat a certain condition diagnosed by a medical professional. Even in this case, you can deduct foods or drinks bought in the program only if they are meant to treat the medical condition.

Again, this list is not complete, so make sure to research the costs associated with your specific situation before you try to claim any medical expenses.

References: Banking Sense