Can You Deduct Your Gym Membership?

Sorry: General toning and fitness workouts are considered personal expenses by the IRS.

Robert D. Flach
by Robert D. Flach, MainStreet contributor

 

An actor emailed me to ask if he could deduct his gym membership as a business expense, since staying in shape leads to more roles.

The same question could have been asked by one of my police or firefighter clients.

Unfortunately, my answer was “no.” General toning and fitness workouts are considered personal expenses by the IRS.

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You may be able to deduct your health club or gym membership as a medical expense, though.

IRS Publication 502 (Medical and Dental Expense) tells us: “You cannot include in medical expenses health club dues paid to improve one’s general health or to relieve physical or mental discomfort not related to a particular medical condition.” Yet, several IRS rulings over the years have shown that if a doctor diagnoses you with a specific medical condition (such as obesity or hypertension), or a specific physical or mental defect or illness, and prescribes workouts at a health club or participation in a weight-loss program to treat or mitigate your diagnosis, the membership dues may be tax-deductible.

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To Deduct Health Club or Gym Dues:

  • A doctor must diagnose you with a specific medical condition, or a specific physical or mental defect or illness, and you must have written documentation of this diagnosis.
  • You must use the health club facilities to treat the specific condition, defect, or illness as recommended by your doctor.
  • You must not have belonged to the health club or gym before the diagnosis, and would not have joined if you were not diagnosed with the specific condition, defect, or illness.

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