Ask the taxgirl: Are Diets Deductible?

Taxpayer asks:
Is a membership to Jenny Craig tax deductible?

Taxgirl says:
Probably not.

I say “probably not” because some weight loss programs are tax deductible, but the rules are very narrow. Programs like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers are only deductible as a treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician. Now the good news is that ‘obesity’ (as a medical term) is a specific condition that would qualify – as is hypertension and similar diseases – but you have to prove that you’ve been diagnosed by a physician as such and that the weight loss program was ordered by the doctor. In other words, if your doctor merely advises you to lose some weight to protect your health, that’s not sufficient.

If you qualify (meaning that a doctor has ordered you to perform a specific physical activity due to a diagnosed medical condition), you can deduct fees for the program but you cannot deduct gym or health club membership dues. Some separately stated activity fees, such as those for water aerobics, would be deductible if prescribed by a doctor.

Also not deductible? The cost of food in those plans. Under extremely limited circumstances, the costs of some foods (foods outside of the realm of “normal nutritional needs” used to treat an illness) may be deductible – but only to the extent that the costs exceed your “normal” diet. But chowing down on Jenny Craig’s meals just to cut fat and calories? That doesn’t count.

The bottom line is that most weight loss plans aren’t tax deductible. Keep in mind, though, that some health insurance companies may provide reimbursements for weight loss plans and health club memberships. So even if Uncle Sam won’t cut you a break, you may still find a benefit yet – of course, the best benefit is being and staying health (*clears throat nervously, wondering if anyone notices that I’m contemplating hamburgers for dinner*).

Good luck with your weight loss plan!

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation.

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10 thoughts on “Ask the taxgirl: Are Diets Deductible?

  1. My daughter has severe Celiac disease (inability to eat wheat gluten products) is it true she can deduct the cost of her food off her taxes because she is on a medically restricted diet?
    Thanks for your answer.

  2. I was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 3, almost 10 years. I also have fibromyalgia. I take meds for both. Arimidex, a cancer foghting drug and Percoset 325/10 acetomenifin. Are any of these deductable. Thank You, Sheila

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