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Breaking Down Tax-Deductible Medical Expenses — What Counts?

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Feb. 3 2022, Published 11:19 a.m. ET

Tax deductions can help you reduce the annual taxes you owe or, even better, increase the amount of your tax refund. Certain medical expenses can be used as deductions. What are tax-deductible medical expenses?

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When filing taxes for the year, taxpayers can choose to take a set standard deduction or they can itemize their deductions. It only makes sense to itemize your deductions if they amount to more than the standard deduction.

According to the IRS, you might be able to deduct expenses you paid during the tax year for medical and dental care for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. The amount you can deduct for total medical expenses can’t exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

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That’s good news for taxpayers who have outstanding medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance. You might be able to write those bills off as deductions to lower your tax bill.

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Here are some medical expenses that you can include as deductions (they aren't reimbursed by insurance):

  • Doctor visit fees for the dentist, surgeon, chiropractor, psychiatrist, psychologists, and more

  • Alternative medicine services like acupuncture or chiropractic care

  • Insurance premiums and other costs such as co-insurance and co-pays

  • Inpatient hospital care or residential nursing homestays

  • Weight-loss programs if required by a physician to manage a specific disease

  • Prescription drugs

  • Transportation expenses incurred traveling to and from medical treatments (the deduction is at 16 cents per mile for 2021 and 18 cents per mile for 2022)

  • Inpatient treatment for drugs or alcohol addiction

  • Smoking cessation programs and prescription drugs that alleviate nicotine withdrawal

  • Uninsured expenses like false teeth, eyeglasses (reading or prescription), and contact lenses

  • Adaptive equipment for visual, hearing, or physical disabilities (this can be anything from crutches, hearing aids, and wheelchairs to a guide dog)

  • Premiums for long-term care insurance policies

  • Medically necessary eye surgery

  • Admission and transportation costs for attending a medical conference for a chronic illness that you, your spouse, or your dependent have

    • Treatments for COVID-19
  • What medical expenses aren’t deductible?

    Although you might be able to deduct a weight loss program if your doctor requires it to treat a medical condition, you can’t deduct a Weight Watchers membership that you signed up for to lose a few pounds. Elective treatments like cosmetic procedures, hair transplants, or Lasik eye surgery also can’t be deducted from your tax bill.

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    The best test to determine whether a medical expense is deductible or not is to ask yourself, “is this medically necessary.” Only the procedures that are medically necessary can be used as a write-off.

    FSA accounts already receive tax benefits.

    If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you receive tax benefits when you contribute money to the account. Since you already receive tax benefits from the FSA, the medical expenses that you pay with the account aren't tax deductible.

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    dentist deductions
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    Other expenses that aren’t tax deductible include funeral or burial expenses, nonprescription medicines, toothpaste, toiletries, cosmetics, and nicotine gum or patches.

    More information on what medical expenses can and can’t be deducted from your taxes is available on IRS Publication 502.

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