What Medical Expenses Can Be Written off on Taxes?

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Many caregivers and their aging loved ones rack up thousands of dollars every year in medical expenses. This includes items and services not covered by Medicare, co-pays and deductibles, even the amount of gas used to get to and from doctor’s appointments.

Depending on the total amount you’ve spent over the past year, you might be able to deduct those medical expenses on your taxes. However, you must have an awful lot of medical expenses to take the deduction.

“There are a number of requirements that a caregiver must meet to deduct medical expenses for themselves and the person they care for,” says Mark Luscombe, CPA, JD, LLM, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. First and foremost, the person receiving care must meet certain support, income, relationship, citizenship and other tests to be claimed as a dependent by their caregiver. (You can read more about whether you can claim a loved as a dependent here.)

“Secondly, the medical expenses must be of the type approved by the IRS as qualifying for the medical expense deduction,” Luscombe says. To qualify for the deduction, the total cost of your eligible unreimbursed medical expenses must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). For example, if your AGI is $50,000, then the first $3,750 of medical expenses don’t count. If you incurred $4,750 in medical expenses last year, then you would only be able to deduct $1,000 ($4,750 - $3,750).

This may seem like a high threshold but consider the average costs of long-term care in this country. According to Genworth’s annual Cost of Care Survey, 44 hours of home health care per week costs an average of $4,099 per month. The average monthly cost of an assisted living facility is $3,750 per month, and a semi-private room in a nursing home is $7,148 per month. Most caregivers can easily reach their deduction threshold.

“If all these requirements are met, a caregiver can get significant tax benefits from writing off their own medical expenses, those of their spouse, if applicable, and those incurred on behalf of the person they care for,” says Luscombe.

So, take the time to add up the amount of medical expenses you pay out of pocket during year. If it is enough, you can deduct those expenses on your tax return by claiming an itemized deduction on Schedule A of Form 1040.

Here is an abbreviated list of medical expenses that are tax deductible:

  • Acupuncture
  • Adapters to TV sets and telephones for hearing impaired individuals
  • Bandages
  • Braille books and magazines
  • Capital improvements to your home to accommodate a disability
  • Car (the cost of special equipment so a disabled person can drive)
  • Chiropractic services
  • Contact lenses plus wetting and cleaning solutions
  • Crutches
  • Dental care
  • Dentures
  • Diagnostic devices (such as a blood sugar test kit)
  • Eyeglasses
  • Eye surgery
  • Hearing aids
  • Hospitalization
  • In-home health care (NOT custodial care)
  • Insulin
  • Insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles for health insurance, dental and eye insurance, and long-term care insurance
  • Laboratory fees
  • Lifetime care fees (a percentage of fees paid under a lifetime contract with a continuing care retirement community)
  • Long-term care services prescribed by a licensed health care practitioner for a chronically ill individual
  • Meals (while staying in a hospital or similar facility)
  • Medicare Part B and Part D premiums
  • Nursing home and assisted living costs
  • Surgeries
  • Optometrist services
  • Oxygen therapy and related equipment
  • Prescription drugs and medicine (drugs from foreign pharmacies are not deductible)
  • Psychiatric care
  • Service animals
  • Stop-smoking programs
  • Therapy
  • Transplants of organs
  • Transportation to receive medical care by taxi, bus, train, ambulance, personal car, etc.
  • Weight-loss programs (if part of treatment for specific disease or condition, such as obesity)
  • Wheelchairs
  • X-rays

A complete list of deductible medical expenses is available in IRS Publication 502: Medical and Dental Expenses.

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17 Comments

mcdona1, eligible for what? If they are being paid by the person they are caring for with a written contract, it might be a deduction, but I would ask a tax CPA first about it.
One of the major problems for nursing homes is finding well trained and careing staff. Most of the care falls in the hands of nurses aids who recieve minimal training and often continue to work when they are over retirement age and tired and cronically ill them selves. The good ones find a way to continue their training and go on to become first class nurses.
Lack of supervision also plays a large part and this is frequently due to understaffing both due to cost cutting and difficulty finding qualified applicants.
Also those dissatisfied with their job and working conditions will take every sick day available, often at very short notice which of course increases the work load on those who do show up.
Many female CNAs are mothers who work the night shift so they can be home during the day and frequently get inadequate rest or have a second job.
I am in no way excusing poor performance. It should never be tolerated.
One LPN I know personally often has responsibility for 50 patients on her shift.
It is a much as she can do to give medications to all those patients during her shift. if you think you elderly patient is difficult about their meds multiply that 50 times,
The family has to be vigilant and continue to visit at all times of the day and lift up the bedclothes to see whats going on underneath. If you can't inspect the buttocks take a look at the heels and elbows. Most shifts change at 6-30 or 7 am. Plan a quick visit at that time. If the patient has not been left clean and dry by the night staff chances are they won't be checked again for a couple of hours.
Another godd way of getting extra eyes on the patient is to call in Hospice assuming the paient has terminal condition and the home has a contract and you have a good hospice. I only have experience with one and an RN made a weekly visit at least and did a physical examination of the patient and read the record plus checked the medication. She also frequently attended planning meetings and of course was free to visit at any hour day or night.
There is of course a lot more but the best advice is obtained from fellow caregivers.
Don't always assume the worst if you find a loved on lying naked in a bed wearing a diaper. At the end of life people can change dramatically and that sweet old parent may rip off every piece of clothing put on and spit out every spoonful of food or pill put into their mouth. You have to decide then if you want them sedated and fed through a stomach tube or IV which will keep them alive But maybe it's better to ask for some sedation so they can at least be peaceful.
It is not easy as every caregiver knows but those who loving take on the task will set an example to their own children who one day may he their caregivers. Love has a way of passing it on.
What if the Child (caregiver) was born after 1949 are they not eligible?