Whether you're a CPA or not, tax season has the ability to cause deep and profound stress — especially for those of us that are filing on our own for the first or second time on our own. As young adults I know that I can speak for all of us that we'll look for absolutely anything to write off, so long as it lowers the amount of income that we have to pay on taxes. So does your gym membership count as a tax deduction?
Sadly, just because you like to stay fit doesn't mean you'll get a tax break from it. According to TurboTax's online FAQ page, a gym membership or anything related to general toning or fitness is considered a personal expense, therefore it cannot be considered a deduction. All of the questions asked on Turbo Tax's site are answered by certified CPA professionals, so you can ensure that whatever answer you're looking for is accurate. There is, however, an alternative way that you can deduct your gym membership or any fitness expenses — but there are a specific set of requirements that you'd have to meet in order to do so.
Your gym membership would need to qualify to be an itemized deduction as a medical expense, and apparently it is very hard to do so. According to the Turbo Tax site, in order to deduct costs related to fitness you must,
- Have a doctor diagnose you with a specific medical condition, or a specific physical or mental defect or illness, and you need documentation from your doctor for proof.
- Use the health club facilities to treat whatever specific condition, defect, or illness outlined by your doctor.
- And you cannot have belonged to the gym before the diagnosis, and demonstrate that you wouldn't have joined if you weren't diagnosed with your specific condition.
This incredibly detailed list of requirements obviously makes it very difficult to deduct your gym expenses off your taxes — even if you are actually using it as a form of physical therapy as prescribed by your doctor.
Just because you can't deduct your gym membership doesn't mean that there aren't other write-offs that you can use to make your tax season a little lighter on the wallet. You can find ways to save on your taxes through your tuition and related expenses as well as the student loans you've taken out to pay for tuition. The best way to figure out what you personally can and cannot deduct is to consult with some sort of a tax professional. And you want to do so sooner rather than later, as the Tuesday, April 17 deadline to file is fast approaching. If you're a Confident Catherine (or Carl) you can use an online filing system like TurboTax or Credit Karma Tax to file your taxes.
But if you're a bit more of paranoid about getting everything right like I am, it's probably best to have an in-person consultation with a certified CPA (aka accountant). And there are loads of options to choose from that make it extremely easy to figure out your taxes. You can find H&R Block locations nationwide that help you make sense of your taxes and help you file for a fee. But luckily, if you make under $54,000 annually you can take advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA will help you understand your taxes and file them electronically for free!
Taxes will never not be intimidating, but luckily you are not alone. We all have to endure this annoying process every year and after April 17 we can all sigh a collective sigh of relief. And hopefully we can all treat ourselves to a little bit of a tax refund shopping spree as a reward.