Is a Gym Membership Tax Deductible?

Woman exercising in a gym.
Image Credit: boggy22/iStock/Getty Images

When you are eligible and choose to itemize deductions on your tax return, it is in your best interests to claim every allowable expense possible to maximize your tax savings. Many taxpayers look at items such as gym and health club memberships as possible deductions, potentially as an employment expense or a health care cost.

General Rule for Claiming Gym Memberships

The simple answer from the Internal Revenue Service about gym and health club memberships is that these are not tax deductible. Expenses used for general fitness, toning and physical appearance are personal expenses and are not eligible for claim in itemized deductions. In fact, if you have a gym membership paid for as part of your employment contract, the value of the membership is a taxable benefit, for which you are obligated to pay income tax.

Gym Membership as an Employment Expense

Some tax experts suggest that gym memberships are allowable business expenses for actors and models, as physical condition may be important in acquiring work. Other experts say that this still comes under personal grooming and it is not allowable. IRS publication 334, Chapter 8, covering business expenses, makes no reference to gym or health club, in support of or against claiming gym memberships. An actor who must work out to support a role in a particular show may be more likely to claim a gym membership than a counterpart who goes to the gym as part of a personal care regimen.

Gym Membership as a Health Care Expense

If a doctor prescribes a gym membership as specific to the treatment of a disease or illness, you may be able to claim the membership as an allowable medical expense. IRS publication 502 on medical expenses states, "You cannot include in medical expenses health club dues or amounts paid to improve one's general health or to relieve physical or mental discomfort not related to a particular medical condition." This supports the notion that a gym membership is deductible if you are using it for relief of a particular medical condition.

Other Itemized Deduction Considerations

Gym membership, if you qualify to claim it, is one of many potential itemized deductions, and it must be supported with paperwork, such as a canceled check or receipt from the health club. Written support from your doctor will also help your case if the IRS questions the validity of your claim. As of January 1, 2013, medical and dental deductions are limited to amounts that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, or 7.5 percent if you are over 65.