Claiming medical expense deductions on your tax return is one way to lower your tax bill. To accomplish this, your deductions must be from a list approved by the Internal Revenue Service, and you must itemize your deductions.
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If you had a lot of unreimbursed out-of-pocket health care costs this year, you'll be glad to learn that many of those expenses may qualify for a deduction on your 2021 income tax return.
How to claim medical expense deductions
One of the most important things to know about deducting medical expenses is you have to itemize deductions on Schedule A to receive a tax benefit.
When you file your Form 1040, you typically have the option of itemizing or taking the standard deduction — a predetermined amount based on your filing status.
For 2021, the available standard deductions are as follows:
|Filing Status||2021 Standard Deduction|
|Married Filing Jointly||$25,100|
|Married Filing Separately||$12,550|
|Head of Household||$18,800|
To benefit from medical expense deductions, your total itemized deductions — deductible medical expenses, state and local taxes, home mortgage interest and charitable contributions — must be greater than your available standard deduction.
In addition, in 2021, you can only deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), found on line 11 of your 2021 Form 1040.
For example, if your AGI is $50,000, the first $3,750 of qualified expenses (7.5% of $50,000) don't count. If you had $5,000 of unreimbursed medical expenses in 202, you would only be able to deduct $1,250 on Schedule A.
Medical expense deductions checklist
To help you prepare your tax return, we've compiled the following list of qualified medical expenses. All you need to do is print out this page and put a check mark and the amount next to each medical expense you had during the year.
Note that this isn't a complete list of every available expense — just some of the more common ones. For the complete list, see IRS Publication 502.
- Addiction treatment, including meals and lodging at a drug or alcohol addiction treatment center.
- Birth control pills prescribed by a doctor
- Braille books and periodicals used by a person who is visually impaired
- Breast pumps and pumping supplies
- Breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy for cancer
- Chiropractic services for medical care
- Contact lenses
- Cosmetic surgery, if necessary to improve a deformity related to a congenital abnormality, accident or disease
- Dental treatment for the prevention and alleviation of dental disease
- Diagnostic devices, such as blood sugar test kits
- Diet food, when prescribed by a doctor to alleviate a specific medical condition
- Doctor or physician expenses
- Exercise programs, when recommended by a doctor to treat a specific medical condition
- Eye exams
- Eye surgery, such as LASIK or a similar procedure
- False teeth
- Fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization, surgery and temporary storage of eggs or sperm
- Gender-affirming care such as hormone therapy and surgery for transgender individuals
- Guide dog or another service animal for a person with low vision or hearing
- Health, dental and vision insurance premiums
- Hearing aids
- Home improvements if their main purpose is medical care
- Hospital services while receiving medical care
- Household help for nursing care services
- Laboratory fees
- Lead-based paint removal when a child is diagnosed with lead poisoning
- Legal fees paid to authorize treatment for mental illness
- Lodging expenses while away from home to receive medical care in a hospital or medical facility
- Long-term care insurance and long-term care expenses
- Mattresses and boards bought specifically to alleviate an arthritic condition
- Medical conference admission costs and travel expenses for a person with a chronic illness to learn about new medical treatments
- Nursing care and nursing home expenses
- Operations (excluding cosmetic surgery)
- Organ transplants
- Oxygen and oxygen equipment to relieve breathing problems
- Physical exams and diagnostic tests
- Pregnancy test kits
- Prescription drugs
- Prosthetic limbs
- Psychiatric care
- Smoking cessation programs
- Special education
- Sterilization or vasectomy
- Telephone and special equipment for a person who is hearing impaired
- Travel and transportation costs for obtaining medical care
- Weight loss programs to treat a specific disease diagnosed by a physician
- X-rays for medical reasons
The medical expense deduction covers a wide variety of expenses. However, because of the high standard deduction and the 7.5% of AGI threshold requirement, it can be difficult to benefit unless you have a lot of out-of-pocket costs.
Still, it's a good idea to track those expenses throughout the year and keep copies of receipts. That way, if you have any large, unreimbursed medical expenses during the year, you'll have what you need to deduct any qualified medical expenses and potentially reduce your tax bill.
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