Now that it’s early in the year and people are still trying to keep their New Year’s resolutions, many are on diets to lose weight. There are a lot of surprising tax deductions no one ever thinks about, and one of these is weight loss. If certain guidelines are followed and fit specific criteria described below, weight loss programs and expenses can be tax deductible as medical expenses.


What Weight Loss Costs Are Tax Deductible?

You can deduct weight loss as a medical expense if the purpose is to treat a specific illness diagnosed by a physician such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, or heart disease. When you’re trying to lose weight because your doctor prescribed the weight loss to treat a specific illness, you can deduct a number of related expenses, including the costs of weight loss programs and attending weight loss meetings. If there are specific weight loss exercise groups at your gym, you can deduct the cost of those programs, but not the cost of gym membership itself. And if your physician prescribes specific foods that treat your illness but otherwise don’t satisfy normal nutritional needs, you can deduct the difference between the cost of these foods and the cost of normal food.


What Weight Loss Costs Are Not Tax Deductible?

If you’re trying to lose weight to improve your appearance or health in general, the associated costs are not tax deductible. According to the IRS, a physician must prescribe weight loss to treat a specific disease for it to be considered a medical expense.

Regardless of whether you’re medically prescribed weight loss, you cannot claim a gym, spa, or health club membership as a medical expense. If you’re just replacing less healthy foods with other foods that satisfy the same nutritional needs, you cannot deduct the cost of food. For example, Weight Watchers meals are not tax deductible since they’re simply replacements for other food.


How Much Can You Deduct?

You can only deduct medical expenses if they equal more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. If you qualify to deduct weight loss expenses using these guidelines, use Form 1040, Schedule A to report your costs. Be sure to keep all receipts and copies of doctors’ notes and prescriptions as part of your records to prove your weight loss does indeed qualify as a tax-deductible expense.


Can Medically Needed Transportation Be Deducted?

You are allowed to deduct transportation costs related to medical expenses. For example, if you are required by a physician to attend a weight loss program, you can deduct the costs of traveling to and from the program’s location. There are two ways to do so: using the standard medical mileage rate or deducting actual expenses. In either case, it’s important to keep track of how many miles you travel for medical-related expenses and the costs you incur, including gas and oil, parking fees, and tolls. You cannot include insurance or depreciation.

The standard mileage rate for medical expenses varies from year to year, so check to get the most current rate. You can choose whether to deduct either your actual costs or the standard mileage rate, based on whichever is higher. Keep in mind that medical transportation expenses are not tax deductible unless your total medical expenses equal more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.


So, are weight loss programs tax deductible? The program costs and related expenses are tax deductible if a doctor prescribes them to treat a specific illness. Which is why you should speak to your doctor before you begin any weight loss programs and see if your specific health status calls for weight reduction. You may be able to improve your health while deducting the expenses from your taxes. And that’s how losing weight can be a win-win situation.


For more helpful tax information, contact Liberty Tax® directly at 1-877-at-Liberty, or visit a conveniently located Liberty Tax® office near you. For real-time updates, follow Liberty Tax® on Facebook and Twitter.