What medical expenses are tax deductible?

Medical expenses are tax deductible only to the extent that they exceed 7.5% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2017 and 2018 and are not compensated for by insurance or otherwise (in tax year 2019, the 10% floor is back in place).  According to the IRS, tax deductible medical expenses may include:

  • Fees paid to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and Christian Science practitioners for medical care expenses.
  • Payments for hospital services, qualified long-term care services, nursing services, and laboratory fees including the incidental cost of meals and lodging charged by a hospital or similar institution if your principal reason for being there is to receive medical care.
  • Payments for acupuncture treatments or inpatient treatment at a center for alcohol or drug addiction are also tax deductible medical expenses. You may include amounts you paid for participating in a smoking cessation program and for drugs prescribed to alleviate nicotine withdrawal.
  • The cost of participating in a weight loss program for a specific disease or diseases, including obesity, diagnosed by a physician. In general, you may not deduct the cost of purchasing diet food items or the cost of health club dues.
  • The cost of drugs is tax deductible only for drugs that require a prescription, except for insulin.
  • Admission and transportation to a medical conference relating to the chronic disease of yourself, your spouse, or your dependent (if the costs are primarily for and essential to the medical care). However, you may not deduct the costs for meals and lodging while attending the medical conference.
  • The cost of items such as false teeth, prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, laser eye surgery, hearing aids, crutches, wheelchairs, and guide dogs for the blind or deaf.
  • Transportation costs primarily for and essential to medical care that qualify as medical expenses. The actual fare for a taxi, bus, train, or ambulance can be deducted. If you use your car for medical transportation, you can deduct actual out of pocket expenses such as gas and oil, or you can deduct the standard mileage rate for medical expenses. With either method you may include tolls and parking fees.

The government does not allow funeral and burial costs to be deducted from taxes. They also do not allow tax deductions for over-the-counter drugs, toiletries such as toothpaste, and cosmetics. Finally, most medical expenses from cosmetic surgeries are not considered tax deductible.  For questions about tax deductible medical expenses, contact an experienced tax attorney.