New tax laws lowered the medical deduction threshold for 2018 to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) from 10 percent. But that’s still a pretty high bar to clear. Fortunately if you scour your records, you may find expenses to put you over the top — including amounts paid for relatives.
Here’s what counts for medical deductions
An expense generally counts toward the medical deduction threshold if it involves medical care for yourself or immediate family. Medical care costs can include such things as surgeries to equipment such as wheelchairs.
Medical expenses you’ve paid on behalf of other family members may also count, but it can get tricky. Typically, you can deduct medical expenses if the relative would have qualified as your dependent.
To have a relative qualify as your dependent, you must provide more than half of the relative’s annual support. He or she also can’t have more gross income than the $4,050 personal exemption listed in the tax code.
However, their expenses still count toward your medical deduction if they fail the dependency test solely because they had more gross income than the personal exemption limit.
Here’s an example: Mom receives $5,000 in annual income from investments, but her rent costs her $12,000 a year. So you help her out by paying the $7,000 difference. Although she wouldn’t qualify as your dependent due to the gross income limit, you still provide more than half of her support. If you then pay a $1,000 medical bill for Mom, the expense is added to your total.
Double-check to see if you can benefit from this little-known rule for medical expenses. The deduction threshold returns to 10 percent of AGI in 2019, so this may be your last chance.