Shedding Holiday Pounds: Is There a Tax Deduction for That?

Tis the season to overindulge and eat too much.  Well, before you try to deduct your gym membership dues there are some things you need to know.  Michael Rubin explains requirements for deducting your weight loss expenses.

What do you call it when a blogger sits down to write a post titled, “Shedding Holiday Pounds” alongside a big bag of tortilla chips?

On second thought, don’t answer that.

I’ll ask you another question instead:  What do you call it when you learn of a financial incentive to do something you kind of know you ought to be doing anyway?

Exactly – a no-brainer.

Shedding Pounds

Shedding Pounds

If you need to lose weight, many of your expenses helping you to do so may be tax deductible. But, since it’s taxes we’re talking about, it’s not as simple as, “Deduct all of your weight loss expenses.”  There are a few hurdles you have to overcome to reduce your tax burden.

Key Requirements to Deduct Weight Loss Expenses

Remember when you needed a doctor’s note to get away with something?  Same deal for the weight loss tax deduction.  In order for the tax deduction to be available for you, losing weight is something the doctor has to tell you need to do.  Your doc needs a good reason, too. He or she can’t just provide you a generalized recommendation along the lines of a reminder to wear your seat belt.  Instead, your doctor must recommend, in writing, that you lose weight to help something critical to your health. Once you have the note, you’re on the way to a medical expense deduction.

What Weight Loss Expenses Are Deductible?

Let’s get the fun stuff out of the way first. Gym memberships, healthy food, and a treadmill are not deductible expenses.  Neither are vitamins or herbal supplements.  On the other hand, you may deduct meetings with a nutritionist, other related doctor’s appointments, the cost of weight loss programs, prescription weight loss drugs, and even the cost of gastric bypass surgery as long as the expenses are related to the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.

What Else Should You Consider?

Qualifying weight loss costs are deductible as medical expenses.  Due to their nature, such expenses are therefore  tax deductible to the extent that all of them exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income and you itemize your tax deductions.  After December 31, 2012 your expenses will need to exceed your adjusted gross income by 10%.  If you’re not sure if you can itemize, TurboTax will ask you simple questions and determine if you are eligible.   If you won’t be able to itemize, consider using your workplace flexible spending account to save on your weight loss expenses.

Michael Rubin

Author of the bestseller Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck, and the upcoming The Savings Solution, Michael B. Rubin is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional. In addition to his experience providing sophisticated financial advice to affluent clients, Michael has been a key source of information for over a decade to countless others. He speaks passionately about and provides guidance on virtually all personal financial planning topics. Michael has appeared in various media, including radio and TV stations across the country, plus national media such as CNN Money.com, latimes.com, The Wall Street Journal, SmartMoney.com, Chicago Tribune, Financial Advisor Magazine, and Investment News. Prior to founding Total Candor LLC, Michael worked in the personal financial services practices of two of the former "Big Six" accounting firms. Subsequently working for several years as a new venture executive for Toys "R" Us, Inc., he made sure that he never actually grew up. He holds an undergraduate business degree from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Michael lives in New Hampshire with his wife and children.

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