Weight-Loss Deductions Q & A

Until 2002, taxpayers were only allowed to claim the cost of doctor-recommended weight-loss treatment for such problems as heart disease and hypertension. Now, obesity itself qualifies as a disease.

Details of this tax break are in IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses. Here are some commonly asked questions about the topic:

Q: Do I have to be obese to be eligible for the deduction?

A: The eligible taxpayer must have a doctor-diagnosed disease, including obesity, that is likely to benefit from weight-loss treatment. Heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol are other conditions that may prompt a doctor to prescribe weight loss.

Q: What kind of treatment expense is deductible?

A: It includes bariatric surgery, FDA-approved weight-loss drugs, physician and hospital-based programs, behavioral counseling, dietitians and nutritionists, as well as some commercial programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.

Q: What expenses cannot be deducted?

A: Health club dues, nutritional supplements, over-the-counter products, diet foods and exercise equipment.

Q: What documentation must be kept for the IRS?

A: You need not submit proof of treatment and payment with your taxes. However, such documentation should be kept in case of an audit. It should include documentation that a physician told you to lose weight for a specific disease, such as obesity. It is prudent to keep records of prescriptions, as well as other receipts and invoices related to treatment.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)