The tax-deductible dog, and other surprises

By Tobie StangerConsumer Reports

If you're feeling anxious about your hair loss, you could buy a wig. And guess what? If a psychiatrist prescribes it, it's tax deductible. Likewise, if your doctor says a special bed to help your back or sleeping disorder is needed, it's a potential tax break. And if your switch to a gluten-free diet is costing you more, the price difference between the old and new diets is also tax-deductible.

Welcome to the world of unusual medical tax deductions. According to Barbara Weltman, an attorney and contributing editor to J.K. Lasser's "Your Income Tax" book series, taxpayers often are not aware of all they can claim in medical expenses. Below are a few others.

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• Improvements to make your home accessible to someone with a disability

• New siding on a home where a resident is suffering due to mold on the old siding

• Remedial reading help for a dyslexic child

• Herbal supplements prescribed by a doctor for migraine headaches

• Hearing-aid batteries

• Laser eye surgery

• In-vitro fertilization treatments for someone who is infertile

• The cost to buy, train, and maintain a therapy dog for someone who is visually impaired or hearing disabled, or has another physical disability. "In general, this includes any costs, such as food, grooming, and veterinary care, incurred in maintaining the health and vitality of the service animal so that it may perform its duties." says IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.

Breast pumps and lactation equipment. The Affordable Care Act also now requires these items to be covered by insurers, but people who remain uninsured or who are insured by "grandfathered" carriers can still take advantage of the tax deduction.

Travel to visit a child in rehabilitation when the visit is recommended as a necessary part of the rehabilitation may be deductible, Weltman confirms.

She also mentions two new developments that could eventually become medical deductions. Pending legislation would treat umbilical cord blood banking service expenses as medical expenses (H.R. 3673: Family Cord Blood Banking Act). Also, while the IRS has advised that it does not currently have a published position on whether radon testing and mitigation expenses are medical expenses, it could issue its position soon.

Keep in mind that you can only write off those qualified medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your household adjusted gross income. For households where one filer is 65 or older, the cutoff is 7.5 percent, at least through tax-year 2016.

And, in case you were wondering, a federal tax deduction for medical marijuana remains a pipe dream.

—Tobie Stanger

See our Income Tax Guide for more advice and tips on preparing, filing, and saving on your income tax return.

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