Is Plastic Surgery Tax Deductible?

Posted March 24, 2016

The amount of money spent on plastic surgery is growing every year in the United State. The total amount a patient spends depends on the extent of the procedure being performed as well as the number of procedures a person has during the year. This desire to have plastic surgery count as being tax deductible has been asked and argued by many people but it has largely been rejected by the Internal Revenue Service and by the courts. They claim plastic surgery is too personal in nature and profits the taxpayer which makes cosmetic surgeries treated as a nondeductible expense.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons Speaks out about Tax Deductions

In 2015, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimated about 15.6-million cosmetic procedures were performed in the United States. They stated that, with all of the money being spent, patients need to find ways to save money whenever possible without compromising the quality of the work. Many patients want to be able to write off some, or all, of their plastic surgery procedure on their taxes. Looking at the recent past, a limited number of patients have successfully deducted plastic surgery procedures. The argument can be made that an improvement in physical appearance could be beneficial to a model or news anchor. 

The IRS and Tax Deductible Plastic Surgery

The IRS is very clear where they stand on this issue because it is quite tempting to write off any plastic surgery procedure as a medical expense. IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses states that citizens normally can’t include medical expenses for cosmetic procedures as tax deductible expenses. Examples of these procedures include facelifts and liposuction since they are not surgeries that are deemed as being “medically necessary”.

Having said this, taxpayers should know that the ability to deduct some medical expenses is not an impossible goal. They should take into consideration why they are having a plastic surgery procedure. If any sort of contributing medical condition doesn’t support the reason behind the procedure, the IRS will more than likely not allow the deduction. However, the IRS says you can deduct the cost of plastic surgery if it is necessary to recover or correct a disfigurement resulting from a congenital oddity, trauma, some sort of damage sustained in an accident or a disfiguring disease. Apart from these exceptions, procedures that are mainly performed with the specific intent of enhancing the appearance of a person are not allowed as a deduction. The exceptions discussed above means a person might possibly be able to deduct breast reconstruction or scar revisions but a tummy tuck is likely not included without proper documentation from a physician.

The “Chesty Love” Plastic Surgery Case

An exotic dancer is the reason for a court case sometimes called the “Chesty Love” case. She was a taxpayer and an exotic dancer who underwent breast augmentation surgery. She asserted that the cost of the breast augmentation should be tax deductible on the grounds that her surgery was a prerequisite for employment. Actually, the surgery made her more successful in her profession even though the results were very extreme (size 56N). The court wrote the case off since it was done to solely benefit her career and also it was essentially “stage props”. New Jersey CPA Gail Rosen says the “Chesty Love” case proved that you must satisfy two conditions to deduct cosmetic surgery:

  1. It must be required as a condition for employment.
  2. The addition or enhancement is unsuitable for everyday use

“Chesty Love “won the case on the condition that she was going to have them reduced as soon as her exotic dancing career ended. 

Tex Deductible Medical Expenses

A person can deduct some medical expenses on their taxes. Each medical expense can only be deducted once per tax year. The definition of medical expense is pretty wide open and can include payments made to a physician, a dentist, a psychiatrist and a surgeon. Deductions for medical expenses also include prescription glasses, crutches, contact lenses and hearing aids. Medicals conditions like droopy eyelids, AKA blepharoplasty, are often covered by insurance since the condition might have a big impact on the ability of a person to see clearly. This surgery would probably be ruled as a cosmetic procedure that is medically necessary for the well-being of the patient. Thus, any amount of money that needs to be paid by the patient stands a good chance of being counted as an expense that can be deducted from taxes since it is a medical expense.

Schedule an Appointment with a Tax Attorney

The first and best step a person can take is scheduling an appointment with an experienced tax attorney or tax preparation company. They have the most updated rules and regulations when it comes to what is, and isn’t, allowed as tax deductions. Filing taxes correctly the first time can save a person many headaches down the road trying to defend their plastic surgery procedures to the IRS. For the IRS, documentation is necessary and creating a paper trail can be extremely useful down the road if there is an audit. Cosmetic surgeons should not attempt to offer tax advice to their patients. They should instruct them to seek the advice of an experienced tax adviser about the tax deductibility of a cosmetic surgery procedure.                      



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