Can the Cost of Laser Eye Surgery Be Deducted on My Taxes?

What the IRS Says About Laser Eye Surgery

Illustration of eye laser surgery
Getty Images/Lee Gibbons (c) Dorling Kindersley

While laser eye surgery isn't covered by most medical insurance, the Internal Revenue Service has some good news: you can deduct the cost of the surgery from your taxes.

According to IRS Publication 502 Medical and Dental Expenses, "You can include in medical expenses the amount you pay for eye surgery to treat defective vision, such as laser eye surgery or radial keratotomy."

However, it's important to note that you can only deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

  For this reason, it's wise to check with an accountant before making the decision to get costly surgery with the expectation of writing it off on you taxes.

AGI is a key element in determining your taxes. Lots of other things depend on your AGI (or modifications to your AGI)-- such as your tax rate and various tax credits. AGI even impacts your financial life outside of taxes: banks, mortgage lenders, and college financial aid programs all routinely ask for your adjusted gross income. This is a key measure of your finances.

What is LASIK?

Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis is a refractive surgery most often done on an outpatient basis that is meant to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The way the procedure works is a laser is used to reshape the cornea, which is the round dome located at the front of the eye, to enhance the way the eye focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye.

What Does the IRS View As a Medical Expense?

The IRS defines medical expenses as "the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body. "

These expenses include:

  • Payments for legal medical services rendered by physicians, surgeons, dentists, and other medical practitioners.
  • The costs of equipment, supplies, and diagnostic devices needed for these purposes.

What Can Be Deducted From Your Taxes?

In addition to the cost of the surgery, the IRS allows you to deduct various expenses related to your laser eye surgery. They include:

  • Travel expenses incurred to get to and from your surgery.  This includes bus, train or cab fares, as well as the price of gasoline if you have someone driving you there.
  • In-hospital food and lodging if you are required to stay somewhere overnight following the surgery.

Should You Itemize?

In order to deduct laser eye surgery from your taxes, you'll need to itemize on your return. 

To determine if itemizing would be worthwhile for you, take a look at Schedule A of IRS Form 1040. On this sheet, you can list your itemized expenses, and then total them up to compare the amount to the standard deduction. If the itemized amount is greater, then you would want to itemize. If the total itemized amount is less than the standard deduction, you would not want to itemize.

The largest deductions for most people come in the form of mortgage interest and property taxes, and in these situations, even a modest mortgage could put you over the standard deduction limit.

Since this can total into the thousands of dollars over the standard deduction, the tax savings can be significant.

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