Medical expenses can add up fast. If you’re wondering if you can deduct medical expenses from your taxes, the short answer is: maybe.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when you’re figuring out which medical expenses you can and can’t deduct. We’ll break it down for you.
When Can I Deduct Medical Expenses?
The IRS allows you to deduct any unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
Leave it to the IRS to make things clear as mud, right? Let’s look at an example to clear this up. Let’s say that you have an AGI of $60,000. Let’s also say you have $7,500 of medical expenses for the year. How much of your medical expenses can you deduct? Well, to figure that out, you would multiply $60,000 by 0.075 (7.5%) to get $4,500. That’s your threshold. Everything above $4,500 is deductible. In this case, you could deduct $3,000 of your medical expenses. Typically, the lower your AGI the more deductions and credits you’re eligible to get. Cha-ching!
Which Medical Expenses Are Deductible?
Thankfully, a lot of your medical expenses are tax deductible.
Taxes shouldn't be this complicated. Let us help.
The IRS defines medical expenses as any costs related to diagnosing, treating or preventing disease.1 That’s the IRS’s big-picture definition, but there are some nitty-gritty specifics too. Here are a few more criteria for deductible medical expenses:
- Any medical services provided by physicians, surgeons, dentists and other medical professionals
- Medical devices, equipment and other medical supplies
- Health and dental insurance premiums—as long as they’re not reimbursed by your employer and the premiums are paid using after-tax dollars
- Long-term care and long-term care insurance
- Transportation and lodging costs if you have to travel to a health care facility, including mileage at a rate of 16 cents per mile 2
You can only include medical and dental expenses you paid during the tax year you’re filing for. So, if you had a root canal (ouch) in January 2021, you won’t be able to deduct that expense until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022. Whomp whomp. (But hey, that’s something to look forward to next year!)
Also, you can include any medical expenses you pay for someone else—like your spouse or a dependent—in addition to any you’ve paid for yourself. That definitely helps!
Which Medical Expenses Are Not Deductible?
Alright, this might be a bummer, but we have to mention it. Expenses you won’t be able to deduct include things like cosmetic procedures, nonprescription drugs (except for insulin) or purchases made for general health and well-being. So those Flintstone vitamins you buy for your kids (be honest—you eat them too) can’t be deducted.
Other things you can’t deduct include the gym membership you’ve been paying for all year but haven’t used since January (don’t deny it), that $10 wheat grass smoothie (but hey—at least it’s healthy), or medical expenses paid in a different year (if you pay it in 2021 it can only be included in the 2021 tax year).
Let’s talk tax-free spending accounts for a minute. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), Health Savings Account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), the funds in these accounts have essentially already been deducted, because they’re contributed before taxes or reimbursed with tax-free money. So any medical expenses you cover with these accounts can’t be deducted.
You’ve already gotten the tax advantage, so you can’t double up.
How to Claim Your Medical Expenses Deduction
In order to claim the medical expense deduction, you’ll have to itemize your expenses. To do that, you’ll use the 1040 form when you file your taxes and attach Schedule A (the sheet you’ll list your expenses on). Here’s a quick walk-through of the Schedule A medical expense section:
- Line 1: Add up all of your medical expenses and put the total here.
- Line 2: Remember how we talked about AGI? Calculate yours and write it on this line.
- Line 3: Find 7.5% of your AGI and enter it here. (You’ll just multiply your AGI by 0.075 for this one.)
- Line 4: Enter the difference between 7.5% of your AGI and your medical expenses total here.
If your total medical expenses are less than 7.5% of your AGI then you won’t be able to deduct them because you won’t hit the threshold. If your medical expenses are more, you can deduct the difference! For instance, if 7.5% of your AGI is $5,000 and your medical expenses equal $4,000, you can’t deduct them. If your expenses were $6,500, you could deduct $1,500. Simple!
Now keep in mind, if your itemized deductions (including your medical deductions) are less than the 2021 standard deduction ($12,550 for single filers and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly), you won’t want to itemize. Take the standard deduction! Aim for whichever option saves you the most money.
We know it can be a pain to track everything down and do the calculations, but if your eligible medical expenses help make your itemized deductions more than the standard deduction, it’s worth the little bit of hassle!
Get a Tax Pro!
We know—that was a lot! If you have a relatively simple tax return and want to use tax software to file your taxes, check out Ramsey SmartTax.
And if you’ve got a complicated tax situation or if you’re just plain confused about how your medical expenses can affect your taxes, working with a trusted tax expert is a smart move. Missing out on deductions could end up costing you more than it would to work with a pro.
A tax Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) can help. They’ve got years of experience and can walk you through your tax filing with confidence. And the sooner you connect with a pro, the sooner you can breathe a sigh of relief.