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When a gym membership is deductible

Normally, you can't deduct the cost of staying well from your taxes. But if a doctor prescribes exercise for a specific medical condition, your dues could net you a tax break.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 17, 2012 11:43AM

This post is by Robert Flach of MainStreet.

 

Can you deduct health club or gym dues as a medical expense?

 

The Internal Revenue Service says "you cannot include in medical expenses health club dues paid to improve one’s general health or to relieve physical or mental discomfort not related to a particular medical condition."


However, several IRS revenue rulings over the years confirm that if a doctor diagnoses you with a specific medical condition and prescribes workouts at a gym or participation in a weight-loss program to treat or mitigate the condition, defect or illness, the dues may be deductible.

 

Conditions such as such as obesity or hypertension, or a specific physical or mental defect or illness, fall under this exception.

Just follow these three rules if you plan to deduct your health club or gym dues:

  • A doctor must diagnose you with a specific medical condition, physical or mental defect or illness. You need to have written documentation of this diagnosis.
  • You must use the health club facilities to treat the specific condition, defect or illness, as recommended by your doctor.
  • You cannot have belonged to the gym or health club before the diagnosis. If you would have joined the health club or gym whether or not you had been diagnosed with the condition, then the expense is not deductible.

What if a chiropractor recommends you take up golf to strengthen your back muscles in order to alleviate chronic back pain? The same criteria would apply.

 

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7Comments
Feb 17, 2012 2:22PM
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So, this means you can get a tax deduction for being fat....

Feb 17, 2012 4:57PM
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I am in shape - round is a shape............
Feb 17, 2012 7:21PM
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I wonder how Newt Gingrich is gonna declare the money he got fron Fannie Mae and Freddie.

Dec 18, 2013 3:50PM
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Mr. Flach,  This was an excellent article and supports what I believed to be true.  Do you have citations to the cases decided in favor of deducting the gym membership?  Thank You!

Feb 21, 2012 3:12PM
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If you were a model or something where looking good was required for your paycheck, it seems like this could be a reasonable business expense. Some jobs also have weight requirements and strength requirements so again it seems like it would be reasonable in those cases.
Feb 17, 2012 7:22PM
May 17, 2012 1:47PM
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Yes but I assume this would go on schedule A under the medical expense 7.5% agi floor?  So not only would someone already have be itemizing but if they had an AGI of $66k the first $5k of medical expenses would not be deductible. 
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