Could Your Weight-Loss Expenses Be Tax Deductible?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  69 comments   :  29,806 Views

Obesity and its medical complications are an expensive problem in the United States. Because the costs continue to rise, the government is offering tax incentives to entice people to lose weight. At this time of year when you're thinking about improving your health and also filing tax returns, why not do something that can benefit both?

According to research from the Centers for Disease Control, obesity-related medical costs could be as high as $147 million annually. The CDC also reports that "The proportion of all annual medical costs that are due to obesity increased from 6.5 percent in 1998 to 9.1 percent in 2006." Since 2002, the government has been offering tax incentives to help combat these rising expenses.

If you are losing weight to treat a medical condition (obesity is considered a medical condition), you can deduct certain items from your taxable income. If you itemize your taxes, some examples of things you can deduct include: initial fees to join a weight loss program (which you likely won't have since you're a member of SparkPeople, which is free :), bariatric surgery, visits to a dietitian and behavior counseling. Although you can't deduct things like a gym membership or home exercise equipment, it's still good to be aware in case you incur expenses that could give you a tax break.

Financial incentives are one thing that motivates people to lose weight. Whether its tax savings, winning the weight loss "pool" at the office, or financial benefits from your employer, money is motivational. But is it a tool for lasting success? Are people likely to stick with their healthy habits when the taxes are done or the competition at work is over?

Have financial incentives ever helped you make a permanent lifestyle change? Have you ever deducted any weight loss items from your income taxes?

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  • 69
    Money is not a motivator ... feeling good and looking good is the reward!! - 4/18/2012   1:39:54 PM
    Oh sure, now you tell me. Been dieting most of my life, coulda used this information sooner. - 11/22/2010   12:18:36 PM
  • 67
    Rewards of some kind are a good way to keep things interesting, but it has to be fair to everybody. We are trying to do some workplace wellness programs and the legal stuff can be tough in terms of rewards. Even Spark gives out awards! - 11/21/2010   6:33:25 PM
  • 66
    I noticed on MBT website for their shoes, they are certified as "Medical Equipment" or some such. Since my doctor has me down as obese and treating me for it (trying to get me to walk), I asked her for a prescription specifically for MBT shoes for treatment of obesity by walking. She did and I bought a couple pairs of shoes, and we were able to use them as an eligible Flexible Spending Account (FSA) expense (we'd gotten towards the end of the year and realized we had a lot of funds we hadn't used up - and with FSA, if you don't use it, you lose it!).

    I don't know if this applies to the lower-priced "wannabe" shoes like Sketchers etc that have the same effect. I do know we've bought home blood pressure monitors that were FSA eligible, and I suspect this BodyBugg or similar device would also be eligible. - 7/28/2010   1:59:46 PM
  • RETIRED926
    It would be nice to receive financial gratification for losing weight, however if that is the only reason you are doing it. The weight will not stay off. You have to do the weight loss for you and only you. - 2/4/2010   9:38:22 AM
  • 64
    Money would help get going and would be a great reward. But it isn't how you do it, you have to be dedicated to get health and do it for you no one else. I did it for my knees, I need total knee replacement. I can't afford insurance and no one will help me. I have been told I am the wrong color (white). So I did it for me!!!! - 1/27/2010   5:54:32 PM
  • 63
    I think parking fees to go for pychician appointments, xray appointments etc. should be tax deductible under medical expenses. It costs me $13.00 every time I go to see my gp. I go every week as I have allergy shots.
    It can cost me from $52.00 to $65.00 per month and that doesn't include my hubby's visits. Hopefully we can get it covered under my disability. If not I shall try the tax reduction out. No harm in trying they can only deny you. LOL - 1/27/2010   12:07:38 PM
  • 62
    although the information I just obtained won't do anything to help me personally I still found it very interesting. - 1/26/2010   8:11:04 AM
  • 61
    interesting article - have to show it to my husband as tax season is upon us already (again) - 1/26/2010   3:03:29 AM
    When I 1st signed up to do the HCG diet, it cost me $1,150! With that kind of money committment, it was all the motivating I needed to stick to the diet. I didn't cheat and I ended up losing 35 lbs. in about two months time, which I have kept off now for almost a year! - 1/25/2010   11:27:49 PM
  • 59
    we did a work place biggest loser at my job and one girl that was on the extremly heavy side would starve herself before weigh ins and win the money, which was about $250 i dropped outta that once i saw how she was manipulating and do my own thing now. - 1/25/2010   11:01:44 PM
  • 58
    This blog is a bit misleading....(I'm a tax accountant) basically this is the same old medical expenses. To be deductable, it must be "perscribed" by a doctor, it must be on Sch A, Itemized Deductions and it is reduced by 7.5% of your AGI. Most "Inital Fees (WW, etc)" won't amount to enought to deduct. Surgery Maybe? - 1/25/2010   2:36:47 PM
  • 57
    I'm not sure what I think about this one... I want more people to be healthier and expanding this program to include things like gym memberships would help people get in shape, but I also feel like there's a lot of snake oil out there and not all programs are created equal. It looks like most of the current deductions are essentially deductions for medical advice and counseling.

    I'm vacationing in France right now and all of the ads for food have warnings on the bottom throughout the ad saying things like "nibbling between meals is bad for your health", but I couldn't find skim milk or low-fat yogurt at the grocery store. - 1/25/2010   12:40:32 PM
  • 56
    My company is very health oriented and it comes from the top but at the company sponsored health fairs the only people who show up are the ones already practicing healthy habits. Why IS that? I, too, wish there were a financial incentive to keep on keepin' on. - 1/25/2010   12:22:37 PM
  • 55
    interesting article. - 1/25/2010   12:59:26 AM
  • 54
    Success in any 'weight loss' program will never be achieved by anyone JUST looking for a tax credit. However, for those of us who have made a committment to change our lifestyles to better our health, a financial benefit certainly helps with associated costs. The gov't credit is no more than a medical expense deduction because our country has become huge, literally. And let's just think about the possibility of gov't administered health insurance...the gov't is not giving this credit out of the kindness of their hearts. They are just thinking ahead of the costs they may have to endure if they have to flip the bill for insurance for a country of obese people. They are looking out for themselves too, it's a business just like anything else. But that's okay. They can do their thing, gives us benefits for following through with committments we have made to ourselves and families, and everyone wins. I'm good with that. - 1/24/2010   9:34:41 PM
    Proactive vs. Reactive is always better - 1/24/2010   8:09:47 PM
  • 52
    "horses for courses" it would certainly be extra incentive for me but for some people it would be very important. It would be important to people who need the money and to those who see money as papamount - 1/24/2010   5:42:10 PM
  • SUNSET09
    I think this is a good idea however, how much and how often would be my questions. If the expenses are processed through health care, this already can be deducted, I thought. A tax credit for gym memberships would be great, thanx for the eye opener! - 1/24/2010   4:08:04 PM
  • 50
    I wish that tax credits were provided for those who are preventing health hazards too - still, I'm glad for those who can take advantage! And there's only so many tax credits a country can handle :) - 1/24/2010   1:37:49 PM
  • 49
    I sure could use the extra money, but no, no expenses that I could deduct. :-( I know that my employer is saving a chunk of money because I'm getting healthier ; I almost never have a sick day anymore and almost never need to go to the doctor, and I KNOW I was headed for rocky waters! (thanks, Sparkpeople!!!). Oddly enough it was our compaies health incentive program that introduced me to Sparkpeople. I enrolled for the monthly incentive off of insurance policy fees and the coach brought up Sparkpeople (wish I had noted her name, I'm sure she is a Sparkperson!) I'm pretty sure that I will be saving tons of money in doctor bills and medicines and if I calculate in my increased productivity from feeling better and my larger social circle because I feel more like socializing the net benefits are priceless!! - 1/24/2010   12:23:03 PM
  • 48
    The threat of a new government tax on fat people (puplic health care option) is a motivation to me, I don't want to give the government any more than I already do. It was a motivational factor when I quit smoking 10 years ago. At that time, the taxes were outragous on cigarettes and I wasn't paying them. They were 1.85 per pack then - what are they now? - 1/24/2010   11:24:55 AM
  • 47
    In Canada children's sports/club fees are tax deductible but not adults -- to bad. It woulo not be a incentive for me if it was but it would be nice to get money back for working out, joining a sport, joining a weight loss program, etc. Would make sense to give money to keep people healthy instead of paying for our health care when we are sick and unhealthy.
    - 1/23/2010   11:06:13 PM
  • 46
    Didn't know much about this but thanks for posting this. - 1/23/2010   10:27:09 PM
  • 45
    I don't have anything that I could deduct but yes, financial incentives do make a BIG difference. I don't know about you but my medical insurance does not pay 100% and just to think that I can save money by not having to go to the doctor as often and being able to control my sugar and cholesterol levels by diet is a big motivator. Luckily, I have only been borderline and both can be controlled by food because I could not afford to be on monthly meds. - 1/23/2010   9:11:31 PM
    Financial incentives are as good as any incentive. Having a financial boost can help with one's stress level which is a part of overall health. - 1/23/2010   7:10:58 PM
    A lot of insurance companies will reimburse you for weight loss programs and other healthy activities. A former plan that I had would give you a certain amount of your gym membership back at the end of the year, if you attended regularly (which you tracked by calling from a designated phone at the gym each time you were there). My current plan will give each family up to $300 per year for things like weight loss and smoking sessation programs. Money can be very motivating, although that is not what is motivating me now! - 1/23/2010   6:28:55 PM
  • 42
    I decided to start loosing weight because of a biggest looser program at work. This was last year. When it ended, ( and I won thanks to sparkpeople ), I stayed on track for a few months. Then I stopped all together. However, during the time I stopped, I started to feel tired and lazy all the time, and my asthma started to act up. So, that is what caused me to return. So, initially it was because of the money. But that taste of feeling great is what brought me back. When I came back I took off the 15 lbs I put back on and in total from when I started last year is 60 lbs lost. I still have a good 50 lbs to loose. I can do it, and the fact that everyday I feel better and better will keep me motivated and on track. - 1/23/2010   5:35:48 PM
  • 41
    I was excited that my company is doing a biggest loser competition.... unfortunately for me they aren't starting it until February, so I will already have lost some weight at that point :( but hey, weight lost is better than weight gained when you are my size~ - 1/23/2010   5:11:23 PM
  • 40
    We have had challenges at work which kick-started me back into working out. The past year has been a lot of ups and down healthwise. So I'm hoping 2010 will bring on more pluses than minuses. We have always added medical on our taxes but some years never had enough to get a break. Too bad there is not an exception to that percentage off based on income. WE could use a break in the tax department always. - 1/23/2010   4:02:16 PM
  • 39
    The company I work for has as part of its wellness program a health risk assessment, which pays employees for achieving healthy results in four key areas: BMI, BP, Cholesterol, and glucose. More important than the money is the fact that this program has identified previously undiagnosed serious medical conditions so that the employee could immediately seek medical help. The obvious company benefit is a reduction in medical costs and healthier employees. - 1/23/2010   1:05:40 PM
  • 38
    Money wouldn't motivate me one way or the other about weight loss, and I don't think competitions would, either--both are too short-term and too non-health-focused. I never have much money, but I've changed my food-spending habits a lot--not, alas, toward cheaper foods--but toward ones that are better value for my health--that's the only way weight-loss and money work for me.
    My employer offers WW free, but I've been on SP and prefer it. If my employer offered a free gym, that would be something! - 1/23/2010   12:47:46 PM
  • 37
    I'm hoping to win the office pool ($1000!) but that's not really motivating me to lose weight; I just feel like "it's on". - 1/23/2010   11:53:34 AM
  • 36
    No, I have never deducted weight loss expenses from taxes. A good thought! - 1/23/2010   11:41:40 AM
    I never even thought that one could deduct medical expenses for obesity! - 1/23/2010   11:34:48 AM
  • 34
    I never considered weight loss expenses as deductible. Great information. - 1/23/2010   11:12:44 AM
  • 33
    Question to all: I use SparkPeople but my husband is using NutriSystem, he was obese and had Type II Diabetes, can he deduct the cost of the foods they send him? - 1/23/2010   10:54:12 AM
  • 32
    No I haven't deducted from my taxes as I try to use what I have around already - 1/23/2010   9:52:22 AM
  • 31
    Oh I was excited there for a minute. But all I have is a gym membership. Everything else is Spark driven. - 1/23/2010   9:38:21 AM
  • 30
    There was a period when I got myself to the gym more often because my insurance would reimburse a certain amount if I logged enough visits in six months. That was powerful motivation!

    Now my employer changed health plans, and there's no such reimbursement, but the habit remains. I don't imagine it would for everybody, though. - 1/23/2010   8:51:55 AM
  • 29
    A weight loss competition was what kicked my but into gear, and got me exercising. the 3 months of the competition was enough to get me into a good habit, and to make exercise and Spark People a part of my life that I won't soon stop.

    The cost of the things that I've needed do not qualify as tax deductions... but my expenses have gone up for the short term (need new clothes as I shrink out of my old ones, new running shoes every 4 months as I run out the miles that the shoes have in them) but at the same time, I look at it as an investment in myself. I'm not spending my money on books, or other sedentary activities.

    In the end, I have changed my lifestyle for myself, and not for any financial incentives. - 1/23/2010   8:43:20 AM
  • 28
    I became a fitness instructor so that I would make a little money while working out! Turns out that I am good at it, I thoroughly enjoy my job, and I feel wonderful helping other people gain some control over their fitness. I have business expenses such as conventions, workshops, shoes, clothing that are all tax deductible. - 1/23/2010   8:35:22 AM
  • 27
    Did not know you could deduct expenses for weight loss, so I have never deducted it. I pay for yoga classes do I will deduct the cost this year! - 1/23/2010   8:29:50 AM
    Didn't know this. - 1/23/2010   8:20:01 AM
  • 25
    Thanks for this information. I will be filing my taxes soon and can try to save as much as possible so my returns would be high. - 1/23/2010   8:18:42 AM
    Not doing this for Tax Deductions, but it is an extra incentive! - 1/23/2010   8:18:38 AM
  • 23
    Financial gain has never been an incentive for me to lose weight and II have never deducted any thing that has assisted me to lose weight. I have back issues and inability @ times to exercise has caused me to become physically weak and gain weight. After many years of battling this the most helpful for me has been an exceptional personal trainer and a neuromuscular massage therapist. Very unlikely that my medical and massage therapy would add up to 7% of our AGI. - 1/23/2010   8:04:15 AM
  • 22
    No I have never deduction weight loss items. - 1/23/2010   7:53:27 AM
  • 21
    We did a weight loss pool at work and the winner gained back everything she lost.

    Tax incentives are helpful, but most people don't spend enough on healthcare to qualify. - 1/23/2010   6:45:04 AM
  • 20
    The only incentive that money could me closer to getting a gym membership & spending all my time swimming laps in the pool! Someday..... - 1/23/2010   5:22:58 AM

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