Taxpayer's Guide on IRS Policy to Deduct Weight Control Treatment
On April 2, 2002, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a change
in its policy regarding how taxpayers may deduct the costs of weight
loss / weight control programs.
following are interpretations of the American Obesity Association
regarding the IRS policy. We want to emphasize that this is our interpretation;
not an official interpretation. Consult your professional tax advisor
on how this new policy effects your specific tax situation.
The IRS set out a new policy in a Revenue Ruling (2002-19) on April
Policy: In Revenue Ruling 2002-19, the IRS stated that, "Obesity
is medically accepted to be a disease in its own right." The
IRS ruled that, "Uncompensated amounts paid by individuals for
participation in a weight-loss program as treatment for a specific
disease or diseases (including obesity) diagnosed by a physician are
expenses for medical care that are deductible under § 213, subject
to the limitations of that section."
is eligible for the deduction?
There are three categories of persons who may be eligible. First,
taxpayers who itemize their deductions can add these costs to the
costs of medical and dental expenses. Within this category, taxpayers
can only deduct medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of their
adjusted gross income and that are not reimbursed.
many employees have medical savings accounts (MSAs) through their
employers. MSAs use the same definitions of medical expenses, as do
individual taxpayers. Therefore, employees can use their MSAs for
weight loss programs if undertaken at a physicians direction
to treat an existing disease.
many employers provide Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) that may provide
this coverage. FSAs, also, use the same definitions of medical expenses,
as do individual taxpayers
Ruling 2002-19 gives examples of two taxpayers participating in weight-loss
programs. They paid fees to join the programs and to attend periodic
meetings and purchased diet plans and booklets. One was diagnosed
by a doctor as obese, the other as suffering from hypertension. Both
participated in the programs as a treatment for their diseases. The
costs related to their weight-loss programs would be deductible for
these taxpayers, to the extent not reimbursed by insurance or otherwise.
may deduct qualifying medical expenses only to the extent the total
of such expenses exceeds 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income.
ruling distinguishes these cases from situations in which taxpayers
participate in weight-loss programs to improve their general health
or appearances. Such costs are nondeductible personal expenses.
diet foods may also be part of a weight-loss program, these are substitutes
for the food the taxpayers normally consume and satisfy their nutritional
requirements. As such, they are not deductible medical expenses, even
for taxpayers whose disease qualifies them to deduct weight loss program
guidance applies not only to the 2001 tax returns being filed this
year, but also to any years for which taxpayers may file amended returns.
Generally, a person may amend a return for three years after the due
date. Thus, a taxpayer who did not have an extension to file would
have until April 15, 2002, to amend a 1998 return.
Rul. 2002-19 will be available soon on the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov.
It will be published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2002-16, dated April