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Can I deduct medical expenses from my taxes?

A person calculating their medical expenses for their tax deductions

Tax deductions for medical expenses can take some of the sting out of high medical bills. But how they work can be complicated. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s tax season again. Have you filed yours yet? If not, you might want to look through your medical costs from the past year. They could help you save on your bill.

You can deduct some health care costs from your taxable income. That can lower the amount you owe or even result in a tax refund.

Here’s what you need to know to get started.

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What are tax deductions?

Every year you need to file your taxes with the Internal Revenue Service or the IRS. You’ll need to report all your income from the year before. That includes wages and interest and dividends earned on investments.

You can also make deductions to your income. Deductions are certain costs that lower your taxable income. These costs include:1

  • Certain medical costs (more on this below).
  • Donations you make to charities.
  • Interest you pay on loans, such as mortgages or student loans.
  • Money you put into retirement accounts and health savings accounts. (This is a bank account that lets people put money aside, tax-free, to save and pay for health care costs.)
  • Other taxes you pay, like state, local and property taxes.

You can lower your taxes by reducing your income through deductions. Let’s say you donated $2,000 to charity last year. If your income tax rate is 22%, deducting that $2,000 will lower your tax bill by $440.

You’ll need paperwork for any costs you deduct. That includes things like receipts and canceled checks. Keep this paperwork for at least 3 years. You’ll need them in case the IRS audits your taxes.2

Your other choice is to simply take the standard deduction. For 2022, the standard deduction was $12,950 for individuals. It’s $25,900 for married couples filing jointly. For 2023, deductions for individuals go up to $13,850. For married couples filing jointly, it goes up to $27,700.3

Taking the standard deduction is much simpler. And for many people, the standard deduction is more than the total costs they can deduct. According to the IRS, more than 8 out of 10 tax filers take the standard deduction.4

But sometimes the standard deduction may be less. That might happen if you have a lot of medical costs.

In that case, you might want to think about itemizing your deductions. To itemize, you list out all your qualified medical costs when you file your taxes.

Looking for another way to save on taxes? Find out if you can open a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSAs). You’ll need to check whether your health costs qualify. Try our free medical expense eligibility tool.

What medical costs can be deducted from my income?

The IRS says you can deduct costs used to pay for medical care to treat an injury or illness. You can also deduct costs for care to:

  • Find the cause of a medical problem
  • Keep you from getting a medical problem

Those costs can be for yourself, your spouse or your dependents.5

You may be able to deduct medical costs like:

  • Hospital care and nursing home care
  • Transportation costs to get medical care
  • Participation in a weight-loss program for a specific medical condition
  • Payments you make to
    • Dentists
    • Doctors
    • Mental health professionals
    • Surgeons
    • Other health care providers
  • Prescription drugs
  • Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Hearing aids

You can’t deduct the cost of most cosmetic surgeries. You also can’t deduct costs for your general health. Examples include gym fees or weight loss foods. You might want to argue that a beach vacation could improve your mental health. But you can’t deduct that either.

Some surprising things you can deduct

There are some surprising items you can deduct from your taxes. Here are a few examples:

  • Breast pumps and supplies
  • Durable medical equipment (DME). These are medical supplies like wheelchairs, crutches or blood testing strips for diabetes care.
  • Changes to your home for health reasons (like adding an entrance ramp)
  • Counseling or medical care for addiction
  • Programs to help you quit smoking
  • Visiting nurse services

IRS Publication 502 lists these and other costs you can deduct. It also outlines important limits. Here’s an example. You pay $6,000 to add a wheelchair ramp to your front door. This raises your property value by $2,000. The most you can deduct for it is $4,000.6

How much can I deduct in medical costs?

Some deductions have limits to how much you can deduct. When it comes to medical costs, there is no limit. But you can only deduct costs that are higher than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

Your AGI is your total income after deductions have been taken. You can’t deduct medical costs that total less than 7.5% of your AGI.

So let’s say your AGI is $40,000. After doing the math, 7.5% of that is $3,000. Let’s also say you spent $1,500 on deductible medical costs last year. You wouldn’t be able to deduct $1,500, because it’s less than $3,000.

But what if you spent $7,000 on medical costs last year? Then you would be able to deduct $4,000 ($7,000 minus $3,000).

Medical costs must meet two other criteria:

  • They must meet IRS rules about costs you can deduct. You can’t deduct some medical costs. For example, you can’t deduct costs for over-the-counter drugs.
  • Medical costs must also be unreimbursed. You can’t deduct costs that insurance paid for. Nor can you deduct costs that you paid for with an HSA or FSA.

Remember, if your costs don’t total more than the standard deduction, you don’t need to claim them on your taxes. But if you have a lot of medical costs, you may want to itemize your deductions.

A final note: If you’re still confused, it’s okay. Tax law can be complicated. It's recommended that you consult with a tax professional about deducting medical costs.

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  1. Internal Revenue Service. Credits and deductions for individuals. Last reviewed January 11, 2023. Accessed January 17, 2023.
  2. Internal Revenue Service. Topic no. 305: Recordkeeping. Last reviewed December 12, 2022. Accessed January 17, 2023.
  3. Internal Revenue Service. IRS provides tax inflation adjustments for tax year 2023. Last reviewed December 8, 2022. Accessed January 17, 2023.
  4. Internal Revenue Service. Special tax deductions available this year for cash donations to charities; IRS works to raise awareness. December 1, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  5. Internal Revenue Service. Topic no. 502: Medical and dental costs. Last reviewed January 26, 2023. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  6. Internal Revenue Service. Publication 502: Medical and dental costs. Published January 11, 2022. Accessed January 17, 2023.

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