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How to Claim a Tax Deduction for Medical Expenses in 2024

You might be able to deduct qualified medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Some states offer lower thresholds.
Tina Orem
By Tina Orem 
Updated
Edited by Chris Hutchison Reviewed by Lei Han

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If you or your dependents have been in the hospital or had other costly medical or dental expenses, keep those receipts — they could help cut your tax bill. Here's a look at how the medical expense deduction works and how you can make the most of it.

Medical expense deduction 2023

For 2023 tax returns filed in 2024, taxpayers can deduct qualified, unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of their 2023 adjusted gross income. The 7.5% threshold used to be 10%, but legislative changes at the end of 2019 lowered it.

Example: If your adjusted gross income is $40,000, anything beyond the first $3,000 of medical bills — or 7.5% of your AGI — could be deductible. That means if you had $10,000 in medical bills, you may be able to write off $7,000 worth of those expenses.

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What kind of medical expenses are tax deductible?

IRS Publication 502 has the full list, but in a nutshell here's what counts as a medical expense

Internal Revenue Service. IRS Publication 502 . Accessed Feb 16, 2024.
.

  • Payments to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists and other medical practitioners.

  • Hospital and nursing home care.

  • Acupuncture.

  • Addiction programs, including for quitting smoking.

  • Weight-loss programs for doctor-diagnosed diseases (but food and health club dues usually don’t count).

  • Insulin and prescription drugs.

  • Admission and transportation to medical conferences about diseases that you, your spouse or your dependents have (but meals and lodging don’t count).

  • Dentures, eyeglasses, contacts, hearing aids, crutches, wheelchairs and service animals.

  • Transportation costs to and from medical care.

  • Insurance premiums for medical care or long-term care insurance if they’re not paid by your employer and you pay out of pocket after taxes.

Other rules for the medical expense deduction

  • You can only include the medical expenses you paid during the year.

  • You can’t include expenses you were reimbursed for (so if insurance paid the bill, it’s not deductible)

    Internal Revenue Service. IRS Publication 502 . Accessed Feb 16, 2024.
    .

What kind of medical expenses are not tax deductible?

  • Funeral expenses.

  • Over-the-counter medicines.

  • Toothpaste, toiletries and cosmetics.

  • Most cosmetic surgery.

  • Nicotine gum and patches that don't require a prescription.

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How to claim the medical expense deduction

You'll need to take the following steps.

Itemize on your taxes

First, you’ll need to itemize instead of taking the standard deduction. For reference, the standard deduction for tax year 2023 ranges from $13,850 to $27,700, depending on your filing status. If your standard deduction ends up being less than your itemized deductions, you may want to itemize to save money. On the other hand, if your standard deduction is more than your itemized deductions, taking the standard deduction will save you some time. (Read more about itemizing versus taking the standard deduction.)

Use Schedule A

Schedule A allows you to do the math to calculate your deduction. Your tax software can walk you through the steps.

Is it worth claiming medical expenses on taxes? Consider your filing status

Filing separately if you’re married could get you a bigger medical expense deduction, but this move is risky because you might lose other tax breaks. Let’s say your spouse had $6,000 in medical bills last year. If you file jointly and your combined AGI is $100,000, then only the portion of your medical bills over 7.5% of that — or the portion over $7,500 — is deductible. So in this scenario, you can’t deduct any of your $6,000 in medical bills.

Now, let’s say you file separately. Your AGI is $75,000 and your spouse’s AGI is $25,000. Because the medical bills are your spouse’s, they could deduct anything over 7.5% of that $25,000 AGI, or $1,875. That would mean a $4,125 tax deduction for filing separately.

Keep good records

Hang onto those bills, and ask for records from your pharmacy or other care providers to fill in the holes, says Peter Gurian, a Dallas-area certified public accountant.

“If you're taking this deduction, you're probably pretty sick or you've got some problems that need to be dealt with. If that's the case, then the key is to really do a good job of keeping track of every single expense and expenditure,” he says.

State thresholds for the medical expense deduction

Your state might have a lower AGI threshold, which could save you money, says Chris Whalen, a certified public accountant in Red Bank, New Jersey. In New Jersey, for example, the AGI threshold for deducting medical expenses is just 2%, which means taxpayers there might get a break on their state income taxes even if they can’t get one on their federal income taxes.

Whalen says it’s important to find out what your state’s rule is; you might leave money on the table otherwise.

“I see it every year, all the time,” he says.

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