How it Works
Medical expenses can be cited as an itemized deduction on your tax return. In order to itemize deductions, you must forgo the standard deduction. That means it only makes sense to itemize if all of your itemized deductions -- medical expenses, charitable contributions, taxes besides federal taxes, interest expense and miscellaneous deductions -- exceed the standard deduction. As of publication, the standard deduction is $6,200 for individuals and $12,400 for married couples.
How Much You Can Deduct
The medical expenses you pay for yourself, on behalf of your spouse and any dependents all count towards total medical expenses. Dependents can include grown children and elderly parents. Medical expenses are only deductible to the extent that they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. That means if you have medical expenses of $20,000 and your adjusted gross income is $60,000, only $14,000 of the medical expenses are deductible. For individuals over 65, the limit is 7.5 percent instead of 10 percent.
The IRS has a fairly generous definition of medical expenses. Any payments to doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists and nontraditional medical professionals are eligible. That means alternative treatments like wilderness therapy and acupuncture can be deducted. Medical supplies and equipment, like eyeglasses and hearing aids, qualify. Expenses incurred for hospital care or nursing homes also are eligible. Weight-loss program expenses prescribed by a physician can be deducted, as well as medical procedures like Lasik surgery. All expenses related to these activities -- including transportation, meals and lodging -- are deductible.
Some health-related items don't qualify as medical expenses. Over-the-counter medicines, like aspirin and nicotine patches, can't be deducted. Basic toiletries and cosmetics, like toothpaste and lotions, aren't eligible. Cosmetic surgeries that don't improve your health in some way aren't deductible. You can't deduct funeral or burial expenses. And any expenses that have been reimbursed by an employer or health insurance can't be deducted.