Deducting for weight loss

DEAR HARRY: I've been diagnosed as morbidly obese. My doctor put me on a special diet and an exercise program at a place that charges me $130 a month. The special diet is designed to make me lose weight slowly with no shock to my system.

My tax preparer says that the only deductible item here is the cost of my doctor's visits. Other people in my exercise program told me they have been deducting the cost of the program and the excess over normal cost of food for their diets. What's the score here, Harry?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: The exercise program is clearly deductible. According to the Tax Court, so is the excess cost of the diet food. However, the IRS' position is not completely clear. It has opposed any deduction for the food cost, even in cases where there is a severe problem with a regular diet such as with gluten resistance. There has been a lot of pressure on the IRS to soften its stand, giving added reason to take the deduction.

I suggest that you tell your preparer to take both deductions. The odds that you will not be questioned are heavily in your favor. And if you are, you will win without the costs of a court fight.


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