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Could Your Weight-Loss Expenses Be Tax Deductible?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/22/2010 10:10 AM   :  69 comments   :  22,281 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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Comments

  • 19
    No money isn't an incentive for me. I would rather lose weight to be healthier and want to look great for my step-daughter's wedding. - 1/23/2010   1:18:17 AM
  • SPARKEE
    18
    Money isn't the driving motivator in my life, but it would be great if we could get tax relief for actually taking positive healthy steps which in theory, will keep us productive! - 1/22/2010   11:39:15 PM
  • 17
    Money doesnt motivate me to lose weight. Sad but true. We did a "biggest loser" at my office and $1000 didnt do it for me. I finally realized it has to be for me....because I want it.....and nothing else. Thanks for the post! - 1/22/2010   11:26:25 PM
  • 16
    I am trying to lose weight because of being out of shape and physical health not up to par. I think the financial picture is helping me get out of this horrible habit. - 1/22/2010   10:44:04 PM
  • 15
    When you get down to it, money is the incentive for most behavioral modifications. - 1/22/2010   6:58:00 PM
  • WVURPH
    14
    more inportant than every to lose weight if you need to because employers are charging heavier employees more for their insurance benefits(or giving a discount to those who are not overweight - depending on how you look at it) and only decrease the rates if you get involved with a weight loss program - 1/22/2010   6:14:50 PM
  • 13
    The real financial reason is to keep your healthcare costs low over the long term. The points we need to learn and remember is that being fat ruins your health, costs you precious time with your friends and loved ones, costs money for you and your insurance company, and ultimately kills you before your normal time is up. - 1/22/2010   5:14:24 PM
  • DIALMELO
    12
    For those who don't qualify for tax deductions, a flex spending account can be a great tool to use for weight loss and lifestyle changes. It's money set aside by you that not only lowers your tax burden, but allows you to spend it on healthcare otherwise deemed not covered by insurance.

    I quit smoking using an acupuncture-style laser treatment rather than drugs or patches/gum and my flex spending account paid for it. - 1/22/2010   5:03:31 PM
  • 11
    My employer reimburses 50% of most exercise expenses up to $500 a year, including classes and equipment purchases. That has been very motivating. One time tax deductions or winning an office pool for being the 'biggest loser' doesn't do much for me. The goal is behavioral change over the long term. - 1/22/2010   2:19:24 PM
  • 10
    Never have enough deductions to do the long form anymore. I think we should be able to itemize any thing that is used to reduce weight. There are so many people in this country that need to lose weight and it would be an incentive to them. - 1/22/2010   2:11:30 PM
  • 9
    I wonder about the Weight Watchers fees. They said "initial fees". Is that just the sign up fee?
    Anyway, the only way that money has ever been a factor in my lifestyle change is that when I pay for 3 or 4 months, I tend to keep going just because I've already paid. Of course, once I joined Curves for a year and stopped going in 2 months. That loaded me with guilt. - 1/22/2010   1:34:09 PM
  • 8
    Maybe I'll visit a dietitian if I can write it off. Might justify the expense to my husband? Oh well, no financial reasons for me to lose weight! Just good old fashion sickness of being fat!!! - 1/22/2010   1:11:27 PM
  • RIVERMISTGREEN
    7
    One time I won $500.00 in a weight loss pool. Money is gone and weight is back on. My goal was to win the money and not live a healthier life style. Now I am on the right track with SP. I did not know I could claim some expenses on my taxes. This may motivate me to sit down with a dietician for a couple of sessions. - 1/22/2010   12:35:11 PM
  • 6
    I do not base my weight loss on money I can save. I base it on how it makes me feel and how I can become healthier by doing so. I do not think WI has that option though never have heard of this before. I might have to ask my Dad about this he is donig my taxes :o) Always could use some way to save money! - 1/22/2010   12:22:05 PM
  • 5
    You can claim medical expenses as a tax deduction under certain qualifications. Surgery, dieticians and counseling would all fall under medical care, same as your annual exam, prescriptions, illness and non reimbursed insurance premiums. Gym is not considered medical care. I turn my expenses in to my tax preparer all the time; some years I qualify for the deduction, others not. - 1/22/2010   11:19:54 AM
  • UXORDEPP
    4
    Maintainalo;

    Can you not enter adjustments on previous tax years? I know we can in Canada.

    We seem to do it a lot, actually :-{ - 1/22/2010   11:09:42 AM
  • MANDYLARA1
    3
    It is a shame that we can't get some sort of tax credit for joining a gym or buying self help books. We are all trying to stay healthy and save ourselves the medical bills. I have some health issues because of my weight, none severe, but that shouldn't keep me from getting some tax relief. - 1/22/2010   10:54:05 AM
  • 2
    kinda sad that you can claim bariatric surgery but not a gym membership, but I'd still have the gym rather than the scars. - 1/22/2010   10:39:13 AM
  • 1
    Gar! I've been a WW since 1983 and I've NEVER claimed them (article states since 2002?) on my taxes. I didn't see that pop up on my TurboTax, *either*! Grrrr. Just finished e-filing this week. Oh, well. Another year, perhaps! - 1/22/2010   10:33:10 AM

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