Tribune: IRS backpedals on medical expense deductions

In March 2023, the IRS issued new FAQs on their website addressing whether certain costs related to nutrition, wellness, and general health are classified as medical expenses under IRC §213.1

The FAQs reminded individuals about the deductibility of expenses like smoking cessation programs, therapy, weight loss programs, and gym memberships.

However, it seems that people were taking the IRS’s advice too far because almost exactly a year later, the IRS issued an alert reminding taxpayers that personal expenses for general health and wellness are not considered medical expenses under the tax law.2

Specifically, general welfare expenses that are not specifically for the purpose of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease are not deductible or reimbursable under health flexible spending arrangements, health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, or medical savings accounts (FSAs, HSAs, HRAs, and MSAs).

The IRS noted that some companies were misrepresenting the circumstances under which food and wellness expenses can be paid or reimbursed under FSAs and other health spending plans. FSAs and other health spending plans that pay for, or reimburse, nonmedical expenses are not qualified plans. If the plan is not qualified, all payments made to taxpayers under the plan, even reimbursements for actual medical expenses, are includible in income.