Year-End Planning for Medical Deductions

The PATH Act of 2015 is not the only recent tax law affecting year-end planning this year. One provision of the Affordable Care Act, passed back in 2010, comes into play now. For taxpayers age 65 or older, it may pay to incur optional medical expenses by December 31, 2016.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the threshold for deducting unreimbursed medical and dental outlays was raised in 2013 from 7.5% to 10% of AGI. However, the 7.5% hurdle was kept in place for four years for taxpayers 65 or older. (Only unreimbursed medical bills greater than the threshold can be deducted.)

Example 1: Owen Palmer, age 63, has an AGI of $100,000 in 2016 and $9,500 in medical bills. For Owen, the deductibility threshold is $10,000 (10% of $100,000), so he’ll get no medical deduction.

Example 2: Owen’s neighbor Rona Sanders, has the same $100,000 AGI and $9,500 in medical bills. However, Rona is 67, so her threshold is only $7,500 (7.5% of $100,000). Therefore, Rona can deduct $2,000 of her medical costs.

Starting in 2017, the 10% threshold will apply to everyone. Therefore, seniors have an incentive to increase their medical outlays if they’ll reach the lower percentage this year. Once you’ve cleared the relevant hurdle, all medical costs will be fully deductible.

Premiums included

You might be surprised at how many expenses can be classed as medical deductions. Medicare Part B premiums, for example, count as potentially deductible medical expenses. That’s true even if you have those premiums withheld from the Social Security payments that are deposited into your bank accounts each month. The same is true for any premiums paid for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and for money you spend directly on prescription drugs as well as for premiums paid for Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policies.

Sooner rather than later

For effective year-end tax planning, it pays to estimate your possible medical expenses for 2016 early in the fourth quarter. If you think you’ll be near or greater than the 7.5% or 10% threshold for tax deductions, push certain medical and dental expenses into November and December. Buy prescription eyeglasses, get physical exams, and so on if they’ll likely be tax deductible. If you’re nowhere near the 7.5% or 10% levels, consider deferring health care costs until 2017, when your total outlays may reach tax deductible territory.

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