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The Deductibility of Breast Reconstruction and Vision Correction

As the maintenance and improvement of personal appearance becomes an increasingly important value in the United States, and developments in modern medicine allow for easy, age-defying antidotes, more and more taxpayers are spending money to look good.

While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows a tax deduction for certain medical care expenses, cosmetic surgery is not tax deductible. However, the IRS does consider deductible medical expenses to include breast reconstruction and vision correction, for reasons described below.

Deductible Medical Expenses

In an effort to show sympathy for those who fall ill or are forced to care for an ill family member, the IRS allows a tax deduction for certain medical care expenses not reimbursed by insurance. Deductible medical care expenses include amounts paid for either:

  • The diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or
  • For the purpose of affecting any function of the body

Cosmetic surgery is any procedure directed at improving a patient’s appearance that does not meaningfully promote the proper function of the body, or prevent or treat illness or disease. There is no tax deduction allowed for cosmetic surgery, unless the surgery is necessary to correct a deformity arising from one of the following:

  • Congenital abnormality
  • Personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma
  • Disfiguring disease

Exceptions for Breast Reconstruction and Vision Correction

Amounts paid for breast reconstruction surgery and vision correction surgery are deductible medical expenses to the extent they exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income. Breast reconstruction surgery for an individual forced to remove a breast as part of cancer treatment is deductible because the surgery corrects a deformity arising from a disease. Laser eye surgery is deductible because it meaningfully promotes a proper function of the body.

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