The older people get, the more medical expenses they tend to incur. The only saving grace is the expenses may add up to a federal income tax deduction. Specifically, you can deduct medical expenses you are not reimbursed for to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2018 (and 2017). However, the write-off is only available if you itemize using Schedule A of Form 1040.
What if you pay medical expenses for an elderly relative? You can add those expenses to your own for tax deduction purposes if the relative is your dependent, which means you pay over half of that person’s support for the year and he or she does not file a joint federal income tax return. (Source: Internal Revenue Code Sec. 213(a)) However, you must still clear the 10% of AGI hurdle to claim any deduction.
Common Medical Expenses for Seniors
Here’s an alphabetical list of costs that seniors might be likely to incur that count as medical expenses for itemized deduction purposes:
- Ambulance service
- Artificial limb
- Artificial teeth
- Braille books and magazines
- Car – special equipment so disabled person can drive.
- Christian Science practitioner
- Dental care including X-rays, fillings, braces, extractions and dentures.
- Diagnostic devices
- Drugs – prescription only except for insulin.
- Eyeglasses and contact lenses, including wetting and cleaning solutions
- Eye surgery to treat defective vision, such as laser eye surgery or radial keratotomy.
- Guide dog
- Hearing aid
- Home improvements for medical purposes to the extent they don’t add value to the home, including constructing ramps, widening doorways, modifying stairways, etc.
- Insurance premiums for health coverage including age-based premiums for qualified long-term care insurance.
- Lifetime care fees – percentage of fees paid under a contract with retirement facility.
- Long-term care services
- Meals while staying in a hospital or similar facility.
- Medicare Part B premiums
- Nursing home
- Nursing services
- Operation (surgery)
- Psychiatric care and psychoanalysis
- Stop smoking program
- Telephone costs of special equipment for the hearing impaired.
- Television – special equipment to display subtitles for hearing impaired.
- Transportation to receive medical care at the prevailing cents per mile rate.
- Weight loss program if part of treatment for specific disease or condition, such as obesity.
- Wheelchair, including operating and upkeep.
- Wig if hair loss is due to medical condition or treatment.
(*Source: IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses)
The itemized federal tax deduction for medical expenses can be meaningful for elderly people who have high expenses and relatively low adjusted gross incomes. Again, don’t forget that you may be entitled to deduct medical expenses that you pay for an elderly loved one who is your dependent as defined above.