Question: When, if ever, can weight loss programs and diet foods be tax deductible?
Scenario #2: Low purine diets may help control gout. Your doctor recommends you follow a low purine diet to treat your gout.
Question: When, if ever, can the costs of a doctor recommended special diet be tax deductible?
Weight Loss Programs
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 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 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.
Diet Foods Or Beverages
According to IRS Revenue Ruling 02-19, allowable deductions for diet foods are now greatly restricted. You cannot include the cost of diet foods or beverages in medical expenses because the diet foods and beverages substitute for what is normally consumed to satisfy nutritional needs. All forms of reduced-calorie foods are excluded.
Deducting Food As A Medical Expense
As a general rule, food is considered a non-deductible personal expense. You cannot include the cost of special foods in medical expenses unless all three of the following requirements are met:
If you do meet all three requirements for deducting special diet foods, the amount you can include in medical expenses is still limited to the amount by which the cost of the special diet foods exceed the cost of a normal diet.
Are Special Diets Deductible?
It is unlikely that most special diets, even if recommended by a doctor, such as a low purine gout diet, a low-salt diet, or a heart smart diet would meet the strict qualifications for deduction as a medical expense. These most likely would be considered a substitiute for a normal diet, besides, little if any extra cost is incurred over a regular diet.
Food Expenses That May Count As Medical Expenses
What type of expenses are deductible if you meet the qualifications?
Expenses such as:
How do you document and determine the medical portion? It should be noted, both proper documentation and determining the actual medical portion of these costs can be a true paperwork nightmare. For help, read these articles from Celiac.com that explain the possible pitfalls and process for proper recordkeeping.
Please see IRS Publication 502 for a complete list of medical expenses which may and may not be deducted.
This article is not a substitute for professional accounting services. Please consult a competent tax professional for answers to your specific questions.
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Sources: IRS Publication 502, IRS Revenue Ruling 02-19