Help getting all your medical deductions

The best thing that can be said about deducting medical expenses on your income tax form is that in order to be worthwhile, it must be almost catastrophic. Of course,  just how catastrophic depends on how much you earn.

You can only deduct the amount of medical expenses that exceeds 10 percent of the amount on line 38 of form 1040. Just as an example, if line 38 is $10,000, then the amount that you can deduct is only the amount in excess of $1,000.00. Line 38 is the “adjusted gross income”. This amount does not take into account any standard deductions. It is the first line of the second page of 1040 and is basically the amount you earned last year including interest etc. As you can see, you really have to pay a lot of medical bills to be able to deduct them on your income tax.

For the years 2012 until 2016, the amount is 7.5 percent if you or your spouse is 65 years or older.

What you can deduct

The types of expenses that you can deduct are any medical insurance payments that you have made either to your employer or to a private carrier. It can be for medical insurance, dental insurance and qualified long-term care insurance. You can also include any deductible that you may have to cover for doctor’s visits, procedures, tests, prescriptions etc. You can also claim mileage to go to a doctor’s appointment or to get to treatment. If you need to stay overnight to receive treatment away from home, then you can count the hotel but not food.

If you are paying for skilled nursing care, then that is deductible. However, if it is a combination of housekeeping and nursing, then you must take away for the amount of housekeeping that is not covered. Eye exams, glasses, contact lenses and eye surgery are also deductible. A wheel chair or other device that is strictly medical is also deductible.

What you can’t deduct

Things that you can’t deduct are diet food and cosmetic surgery, unless the latter is required to correct a deformity. In other words, if you get a face lift, then it is not deductible, but it is if you get a nose job because of a deviated septum. You cannot deduct the premiums for life insurance or for disability insurance like AFLAC. Non-prescription medication is not deductible, which means no deducting for nicotine gum unless it is prescribed or Tylenol etc.  If you hire a nurse for your baby and the baby is healthy, then you cannot deduct that expense.

You need to get a copy of form 1040A, which has instructions to help you to determine all the expenses that you can and cannot deduct on your income tax. As stated earlier, unless you have a very serious amount of medical expenses, you are not going to be able to deduct anything.

If you think you have enough deductions, then fill out a form 1040 Schedule A, itemized deductions. Item one on the form is the amount of your non-reimbursed medical expenses. Item 2 is the amount you have figured on line 38 of form 1040. Item 3 is 10 percent of the amount in item 2.  Item 4 is the difference between line 1 and line 3. If line one is larger than line 3 then subtract line three and that is the amount you can claim. If line 3 is larger, you cannot deduct anything for medical expenses.

One way around this whole thing is to ask your employer if they offer a health care spending account. This allows you to predetermine what your medical expenses will be for the year and deduct that amount from your paycheck before taxes are withdrawn. It makes your medical expenses tax exempt. You must however, be careful not to overestimate because the money does not roll over into the next year; if you don’t use it, then you lose it.

Deducting medical expenses on your income tax is quite easy; it just requires the correct forms and instructions which are available at