Can you take a medical expense deduction for the costs of weight-loss program? The answer is a qualified yes. A weight-loss program is a deductible medical expense only if you participate in the program as treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician. If you undertake the program to improve your general health, rather than to alleviate a specific ailment, the costs aren’t deductible. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get a written diagnosis from your doctor before starting the program.

IRS recognizes that obesity is a disease in its own right. Therefore, if your doctor diagnoses obesity, you’ll be able to deduct the cost of a weight-loss program. Even if you aren’t obese, you can still take the deduction if the doctor directs you to lose weight as treatment for another disease, such as hypertension or heart disease.

Which expenses can you deduct? IRS says that the fees paid to join the program and to attend periodic meeting are deductible. However, the cost of low-calorie food that you eat in place of your regular diet is a nondeductible personal expense. IRS also won’t let you deduct membership dues in a gym, health club, or spa.

Bear in mind that medical expenses are an itemized deduction and are deductible only to the extent the expenses exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). (A more favorable 7.5%-of-AGI threshold applied through 2016 if you or your spouse reached age 65 by the end of the tax year.) However, if the cost of a weight-loss program that qualifies as a deductible medical expense is reimbursed through your employer’s medical flexible spending account or if you pay for it using your health savings account (as discussed last week), you’ll get the equivalent of a deduction without having to meet the 10%-of-AGI limit.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other tax issue, please contact us.