Topic 502 - Medical and Dental Expenses

If you itemize your deductions for a taxable year on Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF), Itemized Deductions, you may be able to deduct expenses you paid that year for medical and dental care for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. You may deduct only the amount of your total medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income or 7.5% if you or your spouse is 65 or older. The 7.5% limitation is effective only from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2016 for individuals age 65 and older and their spouses. You figure the amount you are allowed to deduct on Form 1040, Schedule A.

Medical care expenses include payments for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or payments for treatments affecting any structure or function of the body.

Deductible medical expenses may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Payments of fees to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nontraditional medical practitioners
  • Payments for in-patient hospital care or residential nursing home care, if the availability of medical care is the principal reason for being in the nursing home, including the cost of meals and lodging charged by the hospital or nursing home. If the availability of medical care is not the principal reason for residence in the nursing home, the deduction is limited to that part of the cost that is for medical care.
  • Payments for acupuncture treatments or inpatient treatment at a center for alcohol or drug addiction, for participation in a smoking-cessation program and for drugs to alleviate nicotine withdrawal that require a prescription
  • Payments to participate in a weight-loss program for a specific disease or diseases diagnosed by a physician, including obesity, but not ordinarily payments for diet food items or the payment of health club dues
  • Payments for insulin and payments for drugs that require a prescription
  • Payments made for admission and transportation to a medical conference relating to a chronic disease that you, your spouse, or your dependents have (if the costs are primarily for and essential to necessary medical care). However, you may not deduct the costs for meals and lodging while attending the medical conference
  • Payments for false teeth, reading or prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, hearing aids, crutches, wheelchairs, and for guide dogs for the blind or deaf
  • Payments for transportation primarily for and essential to medical care that qualify as medical expenses, such as payments of the actual fare for a taxi, bus, train, ambulance, or for transportation by personal car, the amount of your actual out-of-pocket expenses such as for gas and oil, or the amount of the standard mileage rate for medical expenses, plus the cost of tolls and parking
  • Payments for insurance premiums you paid for policies that cover medical care or for a qualified long-term care insurance policy covering qualified long-term care services. However, if you are an employee, do not include in medical expenses the portion of your premiums treated as paid by your employer under its sponsored group accident, health policy, or qualified long-term care insurance policy. Also, do not include the premiums that you paid under your employer-sponsored policy under a premium conversion policy (pre-tax), paid by an employer-sponsored health insurance plan (cafeteria plan) or any other medical and dental expenses unless the premiums are included in box 1 of your Form W-2 (PDF), Wage and Tax Statement. For example, if you are a federal employee participating in the premium conversion program of the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program, you may not include the premiums paid for the policy as a medical expense since they are never included in your gross income.

If you are self-employed and have a net profit for the year, you may be eligible for the self-employed health insurance deduction. This is an adjustment to income, rather than an itemized deduction, for premiums you paid on a health insurance policy covering medical care, including a qualified long-term care insurance policy covering medical care, for yourself, your spouse, and dependents. In addition, you may be eligible for this deduction for your child who is under the age of 27 at the end of 2015 even if the child was not your dependent. See Chapter 6 of Publication 535 for eligibility information. If you do not claim 100% of your paid premiums, you can include the remainder with your other medical expenses as an itemized deduction on Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF).

You may deduct as an expense insulin or any medicine or drug that is required to be prescribed. You may not deduct funeral or burial expenses, over-the-counter medicines (i.e., medicines or drugs that are not required to be prescribed), toothpaste, toiletries, cosmetics, a trip or program for the general improvement of your health, or most cosmetic surgery. You may not deduct amounts paid for nicotine gum and nicotine patches that do not require a prescription.

You can only include the medical expenses you paid during the year and you can only use the expenses once on the return. You must reduce your total deductible medical expenses for the year by any reimbursement of deductible medical expenses and expenses used when figuring other credits or deductions. This is true whether you receive the reimbursement directly or it is paid directly to the doctor, hospital, or other medical provider.

To determine whether an expense is deductible, see Can I Deduct My Medical and Dental Expenses? For additional information on medical expenses, including who will qualify as your dependent for purposes of the deduction, how to figure, and how to report the deduction on your return, see IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: July 12, 2016