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Ask the taxgirl: Contacts, Glasses and Other Medical Expenses

March 5, 2009 · 12 comments

Taxpayer asks:

My friend says that you can deduct contacts on your taxes as medical costs. I thought you could only deduct doctor’s visits. Can I really take those off of my taxes? What about glasses?

Taxgirl says:

If you itemize your deductions, you can absolutely include the cost of contacts and glasses as medical expenses – you can also deduct the cost of your visit to your eye care professional. Those are legitimate health care expenses.

In addition to the costs paid to your health care providers, you can include the cost of getting to and from your health-related visits, including parking. Click here for a list of additional medical expenses which may be deductible.

Medical expenses are reported on Schedule A of your 1040. Keep in mind that those expenses are only deductible to the extent that they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Here’s a quick example: Your medical expenses total $4,000 and your AGI is $20,000. You can deduct $2,500 of medical expenses: $4,000 (total expenses) less $1,500 (7.5% of $20,000).

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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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rick March 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Another way to save is to use your employers flexible spending plan (if they have one) this allows you to put money away for known medical expenses and you get the tax advantage of having the amount you put in the plan not be taxable, further you save because you do not pay SS and Medicare tax on those funds. even if you are in the 15% bracket you save 15% + 7.65% + the state tax rate. So you would save at least 22.65%. The caveat here however is if you put it in the plan it is a use it or lose it deal. That is why I say known expenses.

2 Ali March 5, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I was under the impression that you can either deduct your monthly health insurance premium OR your medical expenses. Can you deduct both?

3 Mary Kay Foss March 5, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Another medical expense some people forget is the miles driven for doctor visits. Kelly listed the rate for those medical miles in a recent post.

The 7.5% of adjusted gross income is a high limit so healthy people don’t get the deductions. If someone has relatively high medical expenses at one point in the year, it’s a good idea to schedule those things you’ve been putting off – dental work, new glasses or contacts, etc

4 Kelly March 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Yes, you can deduct all of your non-reimbursed expenses if you itemize.

5 Vinny March 6, 2009 at 10:23 am

Ali,

It depends. If your monthly health insurance premiums are taken out of your paycheck pre-tax, then you generally can’t deduct those expenses. However, if you don’t have employer-sponsored health care or your employer doesn’t offer pre-tax payment of premiums, then you may claim those costs as a deduction on your tax return. If you are self-employed you don’t even need to itemize to claim a deduction for your health insurance premiums.

The same goes for medical expenses. If you have medical expenses that are reimbursed through a pre-tax arrangement (flexible spending account, medical savings account, etc.) then those expenses are not deductible on your tax return. Otherwise they may be claimed as itemized deductions.

So, you may be able to claim both your medical insurance premiums and your medical expenses as itemized deductions depending on your situation.

Also just a reminder that many things are qualified medical expenses besides doctor visits and prescriptions: dental work (except teeth whitening), crutches, seeing-eye dogs, hearing aids, orthodontics, chiropractic, etc. See IRS Publication 502 for an exhaustive list.

6 Ali March 6, 2009 at 10:42 am

It always “depends,” doesn’t it? :) Thanks for the info — sounds like I can deduct both, I just need to start saving all my medical receipts now!

7 Katie S June 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm

My father is in Hospice Care and my mother is his caregiver. They have a very limited income so I will be paying for the home health aide at $19.50 hour for five hours every week.

I do not live closeby therefore I am unable to assist my mother with his care. He is nursing home eligible and has Medicare but refuses to go to a nursing home.

Can I deduct the cost of his home health aide that is not covered under medicare?

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