What Medical Expenses Can Be Written Off on Taxes?

18 Comments

Many caregivers and their elderly parents rack up thousands of dollars every year in medical expenses. Items not covered by Medicare, co-pays and deductibles, even the amount of gas used to get to doctor's appointments.

Depending on the total amount you've spent, you might be able to deduct those medical expenses from your taxes. However, you have to have an awful lot of medical expenses in order to take the deduction.

There are a number of hurdles that must be overcome for a caregiver to deduct medical expenses for the person to whom the care is provided," says Mark Luscombe, CPA, JD, LLM, and Principal Federal Tax Analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting (cchgroup.com) and noted expert on the U.S. tax code. "The person receiving the care must meet certain support, income, relationship, citizenship and other tests.

"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 unreimbursed medical expenses must exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income or 7.5 percent if either you or your spouse was 65 or older at some point in 2016. For example, if your adjusted gross income is $50,000, then the first $5,000 of medical expenses don't count. Starting in 2017, the 10-percent threshold applies for everyone regardless of age.

"If all the requirements can be met, the caregiver can get significant tax benefits from writing off medical expenses incurred on behalf of the person receiving care," says Luscombe.

So take the time to add up the amount of medical expenses you (or your elderly parent) pay out-of-pocket during year. If it is enough, you can deduct those expenses on the tax return.

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

  • Acupuncture
  • Adapters to TV sets and telephones for hearing impaired
  • Ambulance
  • Bandages
  • Braille books and magazines
  • Capital improvements to your home to accommodate a disability
  • Car - Cost of special equipment so disabled person can drive
  • Chiropractor
  • Contact lenses plus wetting and cleaning solutions
  • Crutches
  • Dental care
  • Dentures
  • Diagnostic devices (such as a blood sugar test kit)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Eyeglasses
  • Eye surgery
  • Hearing aid
  • 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 (percentage of fees paid under 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
  • Nursing services
  • Surgeries
  • Optometrist
  • Oxygen therapy and related equipment
  • Prescription drugs and medicine (Drugs from Canadian and foreign pharmacies are not deductible.)
  • Psychiatric care
  • Stop-smoking programs
  • Therapy
  • Transplant
  • Transportation to receive medical care (mileage, parking, tolls)
  • Weight-loss program (if part of treatment for specific disease or condition, such as obesity)
  • Wheelchair
  • X-rays

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

The most common way people treat their health costs on their tax forms is by claiming an itemized deduction, on Schedule A of the 1040, for out-of-pocket medical expenses.

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18 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?