The Act’s final version retained the itemized deduction for medical expenses even though the original House version would have done away with this deduction altogether.
The medical deduction was not just retained; its adjusted gross income (AGI) floor was lowered from 10% to 7.5% for 2017 and 2018 (after which it returns to 10%). The AGI floor is meant to eliminate deductions for minor medical costs by only allowing those that are in excess of the given percentage of your AGI.
Example: You have wages of $100,000 for 2018 and no other income, losses, or adjustments, so your AGI for the year is $100,000. In this case, for the year, the first $7,500 (7.5% of $100,000) of your otherwise deductible medical expenses are not deductible. Thus, if you have $8,000 of medical expenses, only $500 ($8,000 – $7,500) is deductible. If you have the same amount of income and medical expenses in 2019, none of your medical costs will be deductible because of the 10% floor; 10% of a $100,000 AGI is $10,000, which is greater than the $8,000 of medical expenses. Of course, there’s always a chance that Congress will extend the reduced 7.5% floor beyond 2018, but you shouldn’t count on it.
Here is where it gets a little complicated. Because medical deductions are itemized, to get any benefit from them, your itemized deductions must exceed the new standard deduction, which is $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly (or for a surviving spouse with a dependent child), $18,000 for a head of household, and $12,000 for anyone else.
Retaining the medical deduction is a necessity for the families of disabled individuals and for senior citizens who require extraordinary care. Without this deduction, those groups could have been saddled with enormous medical costs without any tax relief. However, this deduction is not just for disabled individuals, senior citizens, and their families. Regarding medical bills, you never know what will happen in the future.
Bunching Deductions: One strategy that works well for itemized deductions is to bunch deductions. That means paying as much of your medical expenses as possible in a single year so that the total will exceed the AGI floor and so that your overall itemized deductions will exceed the standard deduction.
Example: Your child is having orthodontic work that will cost a total of $12,000, and the dentist offers a payment plan. If you pay in installments, you will spread the payments out over several years and may not exceed the medical AGI floor in any given year. However, by paying all at once, you could exceed the floor and get a medical deduction.
Being Aware of Medical Deductions: Being aware of what is and is not deductible as a medical expense can also help you to maximize your medical deductions. Unreimbursed costs such as those from doctors, dentists, hospitals, and medical insurance premiums are deductible. The following is a list of some deductible medical expenses that you may not be aware of:
- Adoptive children’s pre-adoption medical costs
- Prescriptions for birth control pills
- Christian Science practitioners
- Decedent’s medical costs
- Adult diapers
- Drug-addiction rehabilitation costs
- Egg-donation expenses
- Elderly devices
- Medical equipment and supplies
- Fertility enhancements
- Guide dogs
- Household nursing services
- Impairment-related home modifications
- In vitro fertilization costs
- Lactation aids
- Lead-based paint removal
- Learning-disability tuition expenses
- Medical-related legal fees
- Meals from inpatient care
- Medical-conference expenses
- Medicare premiums
- Nonhospital institution costs
- Nursing-home expenses
- Organ-donation costs
- Smoking-cessation programs
- Sterilization expenses
- Weight-loss programs (limited)
Some of the foregoing have special requirements, so please call our office if you have any questions.
Medical Expenses You Pay for Others: Under certain circumstances, you may even be able to deduct the medical expenses that you pay for others.
Medical Dependents: This applies only if you had a dependent (a qualified child or another relative) either at the time the medical services were provided or at the time the expenses were paid. For medical purposes, an individual can be a dependent even if his or her gross income precludes qualification as a dependent.
Divorced Parents: A child of divorced parents is considered a dependent of both parents for the purpose of medical expenses, so each parent can deduct the medical expenses that he or she pays for the child.
If you have questions related to the deductibility of specific medical expenses or about how such deductions apply to your tax situation, contact the experts at Henssler Financial: