IRS Explains Deductibility Rules for Gym Expenses

November 8, 2010 ( – Working out at a gym may help taxpayers look swell, but, unless they can prove it also helps a specific medical condition, they can't deduct the gym expenses as medical costs on their federal income tax returns.

That was the bottom line of a private-letter ruling issued earlier this year by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to the IRS, a taxpayer cannot deduct costs associated with using a gym to improve general health and well-being and not to cure a specific disease or ailment. A taxpayer may be able to deduct the gym fees as a medical expense if the taxpayer can establish that:

  • A physician diagnosed the taxpayer with a specific disease,
  • The taxpayer uses the gym to treat the specific disease, and
  • The taxpayer would not incur the gym fees but for the specific disease.

In judging individual cases where the medical expenses were taken, the IRS said it considers such factors as:

  • The taxpayer’s motive or purpose for making the expenditure,
  • A physician’s diagnosis of a medical condition and recommendation of the item as treatment or mitigation,
  • The relationship between the treatment and the illness,
  • The treatment’s effectiveness, and
  • The proximity in time to the onset or recurrence of a disease.

The IRS letter is at