Are Medical and Dental Expenses Tax Deductible?

Did you pay for medical or dental expenses out of pocket in 2019? If so, we have some good news. You may be able to deduct some of these costs from your taxes. But which medical expenses are tax deductible?

In this article, we’ll answer the question, are medical expenses tax deductible? Plus, we’ll walk you through the situations wherein you can and can’t deduct your medical expenses. And we’ll let you know exactly how to get the most out of your medical expenses on your tax return.

Let’s start with the basics.

What are tax deductions?

Tax deductions are essentially government-funded “rewards” for certain types of spending. If some of your year’s expenses are tax deductible, it means that you can deduct those costs from your taxable income.

Itemized deductions vs. standard deduction

There are two ways to take advantage of tax deductions in your tax return. If you take the standard deduction, you’ll simply deduct a set figure from your taxable income ($12,200 in 2019). On the other hand, if you opt to itemize your deductions, you will go through a list of eligible expenses and deduct each applicable expense from your taxable income.

Keep in mind that you should only itemize your deductions if the sum of all of your tax deductions nets to a larger figure than the standard deduction.

Also, there are certain deductions which you can take even if you take the standard deduction. These are called “above-the-line deductions.” They typically include expenses like IRA contributions, HSA contributions, student loan interest, and educator expenses, among others.

Are medical expenses tax deductible?

Short answer, yes — but only if you plan to itemize your tax deductions. If you opt to take the standard deduction, your medical and dental expenses are not tax deductible.

Should you claim medical and dental expenses?

In order to claim your medical expenses as tax deductions, you’ll need to itemize your deductions. But before you do so, you should make sure that itemizing your deductions will save you more than taking the standard deduction. View the table below to find out which standard deduction you qualify for:

Filing StatusStandard Deduction
Single$12,200
Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow(er)$24,400
Married Filing Separately$12,200
Head of Household$18,350

Next, add up at your dental, medical, and other deductible expenses. Subtract from this value 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (the threshold above which you can deduct medical expenses). Is the result a higher value than the standard deduction? If so, you should definitely itemize your deductions this year.

What medical expenses are tax deductible?

So you’ve decided to itemize your deductions! Your next step is to determine which expenses you can claim.

In the 2019 tax year, you can only deduct out-of-pocket expenses that add up to more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). That means that you can’t deduct any expenses which your health insurance company covered. And if your expenses total to 7.5% of your AGI or less, you cannot deduct them.

However, assuming your expenses add up to more than 7.5% of your adjusted income, any medical costs which your insurance declined to cover are fair game! Even medical-adjacent costs (e.g. transport to a hospital, the cost of continuing treatment or prevention of a disease, prescription drugs, etc.) are eligible. These may include the following:

  • Ambulance costs.
  • Alternative treatments like acupuncture or chiropractic.
  • Adaptive equipment for disability (e.g. wheelchairs, shower chairs), or home improvements to accommodate disability (like the installation of a ramp or lift).
  • Optometry costs (eye appointments, prescription glasses or contacts).
  • Lodging costs or travel costs for out-of-town medical treatment.
  • Personal attendant costs.
  • Rehab.
  • Birth control, vasectomies, abortion, and other reproductive health costs.
  • Training programs for service animals.
  • Hormone therapy or surgery for gender dysphoria.
  • Travel costs to get to your doctor or physical therapist. These can include the cost of a taxi or rideshare app, or if you use your own car, you can deduct 58 cents per mile driven.

But remember: in order to claim an expense, you must have records of it. As such, be sure to keep rigorous records of medical and dental costs. Anything that you paid for in 2019 is eligible, even if you received the services in a previous year.

What medical expenses are not tax deductible?

If your medical expenses add up to 7.5% of your AGI or less, they are not deductible. Likewise, any expense that your insurance covered (in part or in full) is ineligible.

In addition, the IRS generally does not allow taxpayers to claim elective cosmetic surgeries as tax deductions. You can’t deduct the cost of non-prescription drugs (excluding insulin), or “general health” purchases like vitamins. And if you don’t have records of a given medical expense, you cannot deduct it.

Also, funds from Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Arrangements used to pay for medical or dental costs are already tax deductible. As such, you cannot claim these deductions again.

How do you claim medical expenses as tax deductions?

If you’re going to claim medical expenses as tax deductions, you’ll have to itemize your deductions. That means filling out Form 1040 (in lieu of the more streamlined Form 1040-EZ) and attaching a Schedule A form.

To fill out Schedule A, you must first add up your eligible medical expenses from the past year. Then, report this figure on line 1 of schedule A. Fill in your AGI on line 2, and 10% of your AGI on line 3.

For line 4, find the difference between the figures on line 2 and line 3. The resulting amount will be deducted from your taxable income.

Again, please remember that if this amount (plus your other deductions for the year) is smaller than the standard deduction, you should simply take the standard! There is no benefit to itemizing your deductions if it’s going to get you less money back.

Also, don’t claim any expenses that you can’t prove with documentation. In the case of an audit, you should have evidence of all of your tax deductions.

Ready to get started?

For more information, check out IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.

Are you gearing up to itemize your deductions? Keeping tabs on all your deductible expenses can be exhausting. If you need help, consider enlisting a tax preparation company to streamline your tax season. SuperMoney has compiled a list of the top contenders on the market. Click here to compare tax preparation solutions and find the right one for your budget!