Editor’s Note: This article is part of our 2012 Tax Tips series. Robert Flach is an expert with almost 40 years of experience as a tax professional and also blogs as The Wandering Tax Pro.

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Can you deduct health club or gym dues as a medical expense?

The Internal Revenue Service says “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.”

However, several IRS Revenue Rulings over the years confirm that if a doctor diagnoses you with a specific medical condition and prescribes workouts at a gym or participation in a weight-loss program to treat or mitigate the condition, defect or illness, the dues may be deductible. Conditions such as such as obesity or hypertension, or a specific physical or mental defect or illness fall under this exception.

Just follow these three rules if you plan on deducting your membership costs. In order to deduct health club or gym dues:

  • A doctor must diagnose you with a specific medical condition, physical or mental defect or illness. You need to 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 cannot have belonged to the gym or health club before the diagnosis. If you would have joined the health club or gym whether or not you had been diagnosed with the condition, then the expense is not deductible.

What if a chiropractor recommends you take up golf to strengthen your back muscles in order to alleviate chronic back pain? The same criteria would apply.