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Writing off weight-loss costs


Dear Tax Talk,
How do you claim expenses for a weight-reduction program -- the amount one paid to join? Thanks. -- Ros

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Dear Ros,
Now comes the time to trim your tax bill. The Internal Revenue Service recently ruled that expenses related to a weight-loss program can be considered medical expenses if medically necessary. Medical expenses are itemized deductions that will benefit you if in total they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

You can include in medical expenses amounts you pay to lose weight if it is a treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician, such as obesity, hypertension or heart disease. This includes fees you pay for membership in a weight-reduction group and attendance at periodic meetings.

You cannot include membership dues in a gym, health club or spa as medical expenses, but you can include separate fees charged there for weight-loss activities.

You cannot include the cost of diet food or beverages in medical expenses because the diet food and beverages substitute for what is normally consumed to satisfy nutritional needs even though it doesn't taste as good.

You can include the cost of special food in medical expenses only if:

1) The food does not satisfy normal nutritional needs,
2) The food alleviates or treats an illness,
3) The need for the food is substantiated by a physician.

The amount you can include in medical expenses is limited to the amount by which the cost of the special food exceeds the cost of a normal diet (you cannot multiply it in proportion to your disdain).

You cannot include in medical expenses the cost of a weight-loss program if the purpose of the weight loss is the improvement of appearance, general health or sense of well-being. You need a doctor to tell you that you're weight is a health problem, and you need to lose the weight.

-- Posted: Feb. 2, 2005




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