Medical Expenses

Odd things you might not consider

Have you heard of a fidget spinner? Essentially, it’s a triangle-shaped toy that’s designed to spin with little effort. Fidget spinners have been around for a long time, but they have gained popularity in recent years as a tool to calm children who are diagnosed with autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety. The premise is that that repetitive motion of the spinner redirects anxiety helping the child to relax.

Is that enough to qualify the fidget spinner as a medical expense on your tax return? That depends. In technical terms, the rules allow you to deduct expenses paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or payments for treatments affecting any structure or function of the body. What’s important is that a specific diagnosis is necessary and the cure or treatment must be specifically ordered by the doctor. If your child’s doctor suggests a fidget spinner might be helpful or calming, that’s not enough for a deduction. However, if your child’s doctor prescribes a fidget spinner in response to a specific medical condition, like autism, that should qualify as a medical expense. As an added bonus, your child’s school might not ban the spinner if the doctor prescribes it.

Expenses for the care and support of man’s (or woman’s) best friend can also qualify as a medical deduction. Many taxpayers find great comfort in having a service or therapy dog. There are, however, key differences between the two; they are not one and the same. Service dogs are specially trained and used to help people with physical, mental, or emotional disorders. The dogs perform specific tasks to help individuals who have a disability such as sight, hearing, or physical impairments.

To deduct service dog expenses as medical care, the dog must be used primarily to alleviate or treat the taxpayer’s physical or mental illness. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a service dog to be specifically trained to mitigate the user’s disability. Deducting the costs related to the dog should not be a problem for any dog who meets the ADA’s service dog definition. Regardless of the ADA rules, if the service dog is used to treat the taxpayer’s medical condition and the taxpayer has documentation supporting the claim, the costs qualify as medical care.

Therapy dogs are trained to assist in psychological or physical therapy and are not provided the same legal designation as service dogs. Again, it’s up to the individual and his or her doctor to show that expenses incurred for a therapy dog are necessary for the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or payments for treatments affecting any structure or function of the body. An expenditure that is merely beneficial to general health is not considered medical care.

Special foods and beverages may qualify as a deductible medical expense. According to the IRS, costs for special food and beverages qualify as a deductible medical expenses if they meet the following:

•    Are prescribed by a physician for alleviation or treatment of a specific illness.

•    Are consumed in addition to the taxpayer’s normal diet.

•    Are in no way a part of the nutritional needs of the patient, and a statement as to the particular facts and to the food or beverage prescribed is submitted by a physician.

If the special food or beverage is taken as a substitute for food or beverage normally consumed by a person and satisfies his or her nutritional requirements, the expense is personal and cannot be deducted as a medical expense.