Can You Deduct the Cost of Cosmetic Surgery on Your Taxes?

Find out if you can deduct medical expenses related to plastic surgery on your taxes according to IRS rules.

Can You Deduct the Cost of Cosmetic Surgery on Your Taxes?

Plastic surgery (unless medically necessary) is not tax deductible according to the IRS. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of plastic surgery if it is needed to improve or correct a deformity resulting from a congenital abnormality, injury incurred in an accident, trauma, or disfiguring illness. In some cases, the IRS has allowed taxpayers to deduct unconventional expenses on their tax returns.

For example, these costs may be a qualified medical expense or are an ordinary and necessary business expense of an entrepreneur. In 1990, the Tax Court ruled in favor of John and Joana French, who tried to cancel their 1984 taxes on a private plane that they used to check in their rental condominium. The two had the option of driving more than six hours or taking the only commercial flight available to take care of their property. The IRS had argued that the family enjoyed flying to Mammoth Lakes and that they skied and swam during their visits, so the trips were actually vacations.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you have a service animal or guide dog, you can deduct the cost of buying, training and maintaining it. This would count as a medical expense. Finally, if your pet becomes an Internet sensation, you may be able to deduct related costs such as business expenses. The IRS has a nine-part test to help you make the determination, addressing the time and effort spent making your business profitable and whether you keep accurate books and records.

The same goes for weight-loss aids that your doctor prescribes to treat a particular illness. These may be deductible, but only to the extent that it is not covered by insurance. In 1962, the IRS added a provision allowing a tax deduction for clarinet classes based on an orthodontist's recommendation that the woodwind instrument could help correct a child's overbite. Do you have a confidential information tip? We want to hear from you.

Get this in your inbox and learn more about our products and services. IRS rules on cosmetic surgery are clear. Medical expenses you incur for unnecessary cosmetic surgery are not deductible. The IRS allows you to cancel medical expenses related to procedures that cure a condition or disease, treat or restore your body, or improve your overall health.

For example, the IRS would allow you to deduct the cost of breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy because the procedure restores the body to its pre-cancer state. Now, what about cosmetic plastic surgery? According to the IRS, “you can't include in your medical expenses the amount you pay for unnecessary cosmetic surgeries”. Examples that Publication 502 disapproves of include “facelifts”, hair transplants, hair removal (electrolysis) and liposuction. However, medical expenses for cosmetic surgery pass according to the IRS if “there is a need to improve a deformity that arises from or is directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease”.

Most patients who choose plastic surgery do so to feel safer and more comfortable day by day in any work, social or other environment and enjoying success in their professional careers should be considered as a cherry on the cake, not as their main motivator. In Publication 502, the IRS states that it generally cannot include cosmetic surgery in its medical expenses unless cosmetic surgery is “necessary to ameliorate a deformity that arises from, or is directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury as a result of an accident or trauma, or a disfigurement disease”. For your plastic surgery to be covered by health insurance and tax deductible, you'll need full documentation stating that your procedure was medically necessary. With all these factors taken into consideration it was difficult for the IRS to argue that Hess's surgery was motivated by anything other than success at work and the tax court judge approved her deduction and categorized her breast implants as stage accessories.

If you are considering having a tummy tuck to resolve symptoms related to excess skin talk to your surgeon and a tax advisor to see if your surgery could be considered necessary rather than cosmetic. Most taxpayers can't deduct medical expenses for plastic surgery which doesn't include everything; funeral or burial expenses; over-the-counter medications; toothpaste; toiletries; cosmetics; trips or programs for general health improvement; most cosmetic surgeries; etc. Cynthia Hess's case is rare exception to this rule and her extreme breast augmentation came with life of discomfort that could never be worth year's tax savings.

Bryant Devitt
Bryant Devitt

Hardcore coffeeaholic. Wannabe music trailblazer. Typical tv maven. Incurable food scholar. Proud coffee trailblazer.

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