A bit overweight like Donald Trump? Here are 4 rules on deducting weight loss expenses on your taxes
Donald J. Trump finally has released some traditionally private information about himself. No, not his taxes you dreamers. His most recent medical records.
But being The Donald, he did it (with apologies to Frank) his way. On TV of course.
Trump shared his most recent medical data with television's syndicated, and controversial, Dr. Oz.
From the brief promo the Dr. Oz show posted on YouTube, the Republican presidential candidate provided an overview report on his health, as well as results of some medical tests Trump had done last week at Lenox Hill Hospital.
How much will be revealed on air today? As the previews say, tune in.
A bit heavy: One thing that Trump has confessed is that his doctor wants him to lose 15 or 20 pounds.
That's not surprising for the Republican candidate who admits a love for fast food and whose surrogates have said that campaigning is his main form of exercise.
But what Trump's weight comments do show is that finally, there is an area where the self-proclaimed multi-billionaire is really, truly like millions of regular Americans. He needs to drop a few pounds.
And although he's been told that by his doctor, that alone is not enough for Trump or any other slightly overweight taxpayer to write off dieting costs. Not that the way things are going we'll ever see those medical or other expenses on Trump's tax returns.
Wait, you say. You've heard, even from me, that you can deduct weight loss program expenses as an itemized medical expense.
Yes, that's true. It's been the case since 2002.
But we're talking the Internal Revenue Code, so there are special rules involved.
There are four key things to consider when you're thinking about claiming weight loss costs as a tax deduction.
1. Mirror motivation isn't sufficient.
OMG, you're starting to get a double chin! Or you don't wear sleeveless apparel anymore because of your sagging upper arms. Sorry, but liposuction to suck away those, or other, extra pounds doesn't count. Neither does joining a gym just because you want to look, and yes, feel, better.
While all this will likely help your overall health, it's not enough to get Internal Revenue Service OK for writing off such costs. You need a real medical reason for the treatments or programs, like imminently life-threatening high blood pressure caused by your extra weight. Any weight-loss programs you engage in to improve your general health or appearance is considered by the IRS as nondeductible personal expenses.
2. Doctor prescribed efforts only are allowed.
The tax code's aversion to covering our mainly cosmetic medical procedures means that in order to be tax deductible, all weight loss programs must be part of a health care regimen that your physician has confirmed is necessary because your weight is a threat to your health and needed to treat a specific disease. This could be medically mandated weight loss to alleviate hypertension, heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol. And you must get this in writing.
3. Know what costs do and don't count.
Although diet foods may be part of a weight-loss program, these edibles are considered for tax purposes as simply substitutes for the food the taxpayers normally (over)consume to meet nutritional requirements. So the diet foods are not deductible medical expenses, even when your doctor has officially determined you have a disease that needs to be treated by losing weight. Similar nondeductible weight-related expenses include, per IRS Publication 502, health club dues, nutritional supplements, over-the-counter products, low-fat foods and home exercise equipment.
However, Bariatric surgery to help you lose weight does count, after you subtract out any insurance coverage for the procedure. Also, if you enroll in a weight-loss program, its initial and subsequent meeting fees count as a valid medical deduction. So does behavioral counseling, along with appointments with doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists who are helping you drop the pounds.
4. Add up all your expenses.
To get a deduction, costs must exceed 10 percent (still 7.5 percent through 2016 if you're age 65 or older) of your adjusted gross income. That means if you make $65,000, you can deduct weight loss expenses if they are more than $6,500.
And then, only the medically-mandated poundage program and other allowable medical costs that exceed that amount count on your Schedule A. So $6,700 in medical expenses on that tax form will net you an itemized medical deduction of just $200.
Finally, a sad truth that all we dieters know is that our myriad efforts to lose wright often don't work, at least not for long.
That's OK with the IRS. A weight loss treatment doesn't have to be successful for the allowable expense to be deductible.
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