Tax deductions and cancer

The costs of chemotherapy, surgeries, and post-operative medical items can add up quickly if you are battling cancer. Patients fighting cancer like mesothelioma will need to start treatment immediately and may be looking to deduct health care costs on their tax return. However, many patients may not know what to do or where to start.

Which medical expenses used by cancer patients are tax deductible according to the Internal Revenue Service? This is taken from IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses:

Medical expenses are the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body. These expenses include payments for legal medical services rendered by physicians, surgeons, dentists, and other medical practitioners. They include the costs of equipment, supplies, and diagnostic devices needed for these purposes.

Medical care expenses must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental defect or illness. They do not include expenses that are merely beneficial to general health, such as vitamins or a vacation.

What medical expenses can I deduct on my tax return?

What medical products or services are deductible? Here are some of the items from the publication.

  • Artificial limbs
  • Breast prostheses
  • Durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and hospital beds
  • Incontinence products (if needed to relieve the effects of a particular disease)
  • Mastectomies, colorectal surgery, and other surgeries
  • Ostomy supplies
  • Oxygen and oxygen equipment
  • Therapy costs, including chemotherapy
  • Wigs (hair loss from disease or treatment of disease)

Unsure if your medical expense is deductible? Is the medical expense--

  • The cost of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease?
  • The cost for treatment affecting any part or function of the body?
  • Payment for a legal medical service?
  • Rendered by a physician, surgeon, dentist, or other medical practitioner?
  • Alleviating or preventing a physical or mental defect (their wording, not mine!) or illness?
  • Not merely beneficial to general health, such as vitamins or vacation?

If you answered yes to each question, the medical expense should be tax deductible. I say "should"; please consult with a tax professional to confirm.

My hope is that the information provided will help and empower you to manage your health care costs. I wish you continued support and guidance in the future.

Yolanda Baker is an Austin-based accountant and the author of BITE Your Bills: Cutting Medical Expenses for the Disabled. She provides webinars and assistance with health insurance issues, medical expense tax deductions and budgeting techniques for the disabled, chronically ill, and those with health care expense concerns.

Please note that the information Ms. Baker provides is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not to be considered financial or medical advice. Please consult with a financial or medical professional for clarification.