Tax time: can you write off your gym membership?

In the scramble to get your receipts and W-2s in order, don’t forget that the Internal Revenue Service may offer you a tax break on certain weight-loss programs and activities that are deemed medical expenses.

“To be deductible, medical expenses generally must be made in relation to the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease,” says Gregg Wind, a Los Angeles-based CPA. “So home-exercise equipment, for example, may be treated as a deductible medical expense if a doctor recommends it to treat obesity and not merely to promote general health.”

To figure out which of your weight-loss and fitness efforts can reduce your taxes, consult the chart below. For more information, see IRS Publication 502, available online at


Gym or health No You can deduct separate

club membership fees charged by your gym

for weight-loss activities

prescribed by a doctor.

Weight-loss Yes, but only if a doctor You cannot deduct weight-

programs or prescribed them as a loss programs if your goal

meetings, such treatment for obesity or is to improve your general

as Weight some other medical health, appearance or

Watchers condition well-being.

Low-calorie or Not entirely In general, these aren’t

special diet deductible because they

meals replace meals you would

consume anyway. However,

you can deduct the amount

these meals exceed the

cost of a normal diet if

it’s for a medical


Spa retreat Oh, if only! But sorry, Travel that is “for the

nope–even if your. general improvement of

doctor recommends it. health” is also not


Vitamins, herbs Deductible only if your Not deductible if they are

and other doctor recommends considered “merely

nonprescription them for a specific, beneficial to general

supplements diagnosed condition. health.”

Swimming, Generally, no The IRS considers such

surfing, dancing, activities “for the

bicycling or improvement of general

other lessons health” and, therefore,

not deductible. But if

your doctor recommends

them to treat a specific

disease, you may deduct


COPYRIGHT 2005 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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