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You Can't Exercise Away Your Gym Costs on a 1040

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- An actor emailed me to ask if he could deduct his gym membership as a business expense, since staying in shape leads to more roles. The same question could have been asked by one of my police or firefighter clients.

Unfortunately, my answer was "no." General toning and fitness workouts are considered personal expenses by the IRS.

You may be able to deduct your health club or gym membership as a medical expense, though.

IRS Publication 502 (Medical and Dental Expense) tells us "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." Yet several IRS rulings over the years tell us that if a doctor diagnoses you with a specific medical condition such as obesity or hypertension, or a specific physical or mental defect or illness, and prescribes workouts at a health club or participation in a weight loss program to treat or mitigate the condition, defect or illness, the membership dues may be deductible.

To deduct health club or gym dues:

  • A doctor must diagnose you with a specific medical condition or a specific physical or mental defect or illness, and you must 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 must not have belonged to the health club or gym before the diagnosis and would not have joined if you were not diagnosed with the specific condition, defect or illness.

Robert Flach has more than 40 years of experience as a tax professional and also blogs as The Wandering Tax Pro.

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