Yes …but only if it is a medical necessity. The IRS has ruled that uncompensated amounts paid to participate in a weight-loss program as treatment for a specific disease or diseases (including obesity) diagnosed by a physician are deductible expenses for medical care. The deduction is subject to the limitations of Code Sec. 213 and its regulations.
Generally, Code Sec. 213(a) provides a deduction for uncompensated expenses for medical care of an individual, the individual’s spouse or a dependent, subject to certain limitations. The term medical care is broad and encompasses the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body. If an expense is merely beneficial to a person’s general health, the expense is not a qualified expense for medical care for tax purposes.
In 1979, the IRS ruled that the cost of participation in a weight loss program merely to improve appearance, general health or sense of well-being was not deductible. The individual’s participation in the weight loss program was not to cure or treat a disease or specific illness.
The IRS modified its position in 2002. That year, the IRS announced that expenses for certain weight-loss programs would qualify as a medical deduction. The IRS explained that in 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized that obesity is a disease. Where a physician has diagnosed an individual with suffering from a disease (including obesity) the cost of the individual’s participation in the weight-loss program as treatment for his obesity is an amount paid for medical care under Code Sec. 213. Uncompensated amounts paid to participate in the weight-loss program as treatment for the disease are deductible expenses for medical care, subject to the limitations of Code Sec. 213. Keep in mind that only taxpayers who itemize their deductions may claim the deduction for qualified medical expenses. Reimbursement for weight-loss expenses from a flexible spending account are also subject to the Code Sec. 213 rules, as well as review by the plan administrator.
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