Hearing aids and tax time
Although most of us wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world, tax season has been known to cause the average American a fair amount of stress and anxiety. At the risk of sounding like a Donna Summer song, you work hard for your money. Healthy Hearing wants to know: are you taking full advantage of the tax opportunities the cost of your hearing loss affords you?
Many of your medical expenses are considered eligible deductions by the federal government. Since hearing loss is considered a medical condition and hearing aids are medical devices regulated by the FDA, you may be able to deduct these costs.
If you’re among the 13 percent of Americans who’ve discovered the convenience of filing your taxes with 1040EZ, you’ll want to do a little research to make sure itemizing your deductions is worth the extra effort. Anyone can itemize, but choosing this option means you’ll have to use Form 1040 and Schedule A.
Those with large, uninsured medical and dental expenses during the year — such as purchasing hearing aids — may benefit from itemizing. What does the IRS consider deductible medical expenses? The IRS provides detailed information regarding deductions for medical and dental expenses, but here is a partial list:
- Payments of fees to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nontraditional medical practitioners
- Payments for in-patient hospital care or residential nursing home care
- Payments for acupuncture treatments, smoking-cessation programs and weight-loss programs for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician
- Payments for insulin and other prescription drugs
- Payments for admission and transportation to medical conferences relating to chronic diseases you or family members have
- Payments for false teeth, reading or prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, hearing aids and guide dogs for the blind or deaf
- Payments for transportation which are essential for your qualifying medical care expenses
- Payments for insurance premiums you paid for
You can only deduct the amount of the total that exceeds 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (line 38 on Form 1040). For example, if your adjusted gross income is $50,000, you can deduct the cost of any allowable medical expenses which exceed $5,000, or $3,750 (7.5 percent) if you or your spouse is age 65 or older.
In the case of hearing loss, allowable deductions include any payments you made for your diagnosis and treatment, which include what you paid for your hearing aids. While that may not add up to much by itself, it may be a significant factor when combined with your family’s other medical and dental expenses.
Additionally, you may also be able to deduct the costs for transportation associated with your hearing loss, including actual fares for taxi, bus, train and ambulance rides. If you don’t use public transportation, the actual out-of-pocket expenses you incurred for your personal vehicle are deductible, such as gas, oil and mileage, tolls and parking — but only as they directly relate to your qualifying medical expenses.
Obviously, this process requires that you’ve kept good records and receipts for things that probably didn’t seem important at the time — like bus fare and trips to the gas station. If you didn’t keep all of the receipts necessary to take full advantage of these medical deductions this year but think itemizing may be beneficial, you’ll want to make a plan for tracking these expenses next year.
Flex spending medical accounts
If you don’t have enough deductions to make itemizing worth your while, it may be beneficial to use pre-tax dollars to help pay for your hearing health costs. Check with your employer to see if they offer flex spending medical accounts, also known as FSAs.
FSAs are pre-tax benefit accounts you put money into to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs such as copayments, deductibles, some drugs and other health care costs. They are only available with job-based health plans and have a contribution limit of $2,550 each year. Generally, you must use all of the money within the plan year; however, employers can opt to either give you a grace period of up to two-and-a-half extra months to use the money or allow you to carry over up to $500 each year to use the following year.
Hearing aids are an allowable medical expense for FSA dollars. Although $2,500 may not cover the entire cost of your hearing aid purchase, it will help. If you’ve already purchased hearing aids, you can use FSA funds to cover the costs of any repairs and maintenance as well as batteries you’ve purchased to operate them.
You can blame the War of 1812 for any tax-related anxiety you experience each year. Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861, which included a tax on personal incomes, to help pay for the war’s high cost. Although the tax was repealed ten years later, Congress continued enacting and repealing various forms of income taxes until the 16th amendment was ratified in 1913.
At that time, the federal tax code was only 400 pages. By 2010, it had grown to 70,000 pages with an estimated 3,700,000 words. Today, the IRS is the largest accounting and tax-collection organization in the world, with in excess of 480 forms posted on their website and more employees than the FBI. It’s estimated one million accountants are hired each year just to help Americans with their taxes.
These tax season fun facts may not be very humorous -- but neither is paying more than your fair share of income tax. If you have additional questions about itemizing or qualifying medical expenses, the IRS offers free assistance online, over the telephone or in person at IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers.