(UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. We have our winner! See the comments for more info.)

It’s no secret that the first year in college often leads to the “freshman fifteen” – an extra fifteen pounds (or more) – that you pack on when mom is no longer pushing the green veggies and it’s more tempting to lounge in front of the television than go for a run.

So when you’re trying to lose those pounds you’ve packed on, can you get a tax break for any of your efforts? Maybe.
You already know that special foods are generally not tax-deductible. Related weight loss programs, however, could be if they meet certain criteria. Specifically, weight loss programs such as those like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, are deductible as a treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician. 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 with the condition by a physician and that the specific 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 as a medical expense 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.

There’s one more hurdle: assuming that your expenses qualify for the medical expenses deduction, you still have to meet the applicable thresholds in order to claim the deduction. That means that you must itemize on a Schedule A and your deductible expenses are only those that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) – the old 7.5% threshold still applies for those taxpayers age 65 and older through December 31, 2016.

Realistically, with those criteria and those limitations, most weight loss plans aren’t going to be 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 healthy.

And that brings us to today’s giveaway! One reader will receive a Taylor Mini Bath Scale, available at Target. The Taylor Mini Bath Scale is ideal for small spaces and can be stored under the bed or in a drawer. The digital scale has an expandable display, for easy reading, that can be folded down when storing. The Mini Bath Scale measurements are – 9” wide x 5” high x 0.8” deep – expands to 7” high when display is pulled out.

To enter to win, just post a comment telling me how you try to stay healthy. I’ll go first to get you started: I run.

Entries must be posted in the comments section for this blog post in the space below by 10:00 p.m. EST on September 25, 2014. It’s just that easy. I’ll choose one winner randomly (using a number generator) out of all of the qualifying entries.

Be sure and read the fine print for more rules because, as you know, I’m a lawyer and I like rules:

  • Don’t panic if your comment doesn’t show immediately. If it goes to moderation because, for example, you’re new here, the time stamp on your comment is what counts.
  • I love my Twitter followers and my Facebook fans but for this particular giveaway, tweets and Facebook comments will not be counted. Ditto for emails. You must leave your comment on the blog at this post.
  • You can enter as many times as you like but you must leave a different answer each time you comment.
  • Offensive comments or comments that otherwise violate the comment policy will be deleted and will not be considered valid for purposes of the contest. Similarly, pingbacks and other links will be disregarded for purposes of the contest.
  • I will need your full name and your email address: be sure to use your real information when you register to leave a comment. I won’t publish your email address but
  • I do need contact information for the winning entry. If you win and I can’t reach you, it’s a forfeit.
  • Due to shipping considerations, you must have a valid United States address. Sorry, Canada, eh?
  • I respect your privacy and I will not send you anything unrelated to your entry in this contest. By entering the contest, you agree that I may post any part or all of your submission including your name as a part of the contest announcements or promotions, with the exception of your email address.
  • Like Judge Judy, my determination is final.
  • Prizes are provided directly by our sponsors and are not exchangeable or redeemable for other prizes. Sponsors do not pay for placement and do not receive any compensation for contributions – neither do I! I have no affiliation, paid or otherwise, with any of our sponsors.
  • If you aren’t allowed to participate in giveaways because of the laws in your state or your age or an agreement you’ve made with your mother, consider this giveaway not applicable to you. In other words: void where prohibited or restricted.

Comment away! And thanks for participating in Back To School 2014!

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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