Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Can Breast Augmentation Be Tax Deductible

“Can breast augmentation be tax deductible?”

The short answer is no, but there may be some other ways to save on the costs

Breast augmentation is a procedure that adds volume to the breasts by placing an implant inside them. This can increase your breast size and make them look larger or fuller. In this guide, we review the aspects of: can breast augmentation be tax deductible, is breast reduction surgery tax deductible, personal appearance tax deduction, and IRS cosmetic surgery deduction.

In most cases, it’s not considered a medical expense and so won’t be covered by health insurance. However, this doesn’t mean you have to pay the full cost out of pocket. You may be able to save money if:

You can claim a deduction for breast reduction surgery (if you have had it done on medical grounds)

You can claim a deduction for cosmetic surgery that has been approved by your doctor as medically necessary for your health (not just for vanity)

can breast augmentation be tax deductible

Plastic Surgery Tax Deduction

There are some plastic surgery operations where the individual might not meet insurance company criteria and, hence, may not be paid for by the patient’s insurance. Chief among these is probably breast reduction surgery for a woman with back pain secondary to large breasts. Insurance companies set their own rules, including the weight of breast tissue that needs to be removed based on a woman’s height and weight. If
If a woman with back, neck, or shoulder pain had to pay for breast reduction surgery out of pocket, she should be able to deduct the cost of the surgery on her tax form.

Now what about cosmetic plastic surgery? According to the IRS “you cannot include in your medical expenses the amount you pay for unnecessary cosmetic surgery.”. Examples that Publication 502 frowns upon include “face lifts, hair transplants, hair removal (electrolysis), and liposuction.” However, medical expenses for cosmetic surgery do pass muster with the IRS if “it is necessary to improve a deformity arising from or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease.

Then there is the case that has reached epic proportions (pun intended). Cynthia S. Hess, a “self employed professional entertainer and exotic dancer”, known by the stage name, “Chesty Love”, underwent implantation
of custom-made silicone breast implants that increased her bust size to 56N (not a misprint). She attempted to depreciate the cost of her implants on Schedule C of her 1040 as a reasonable and necessary “stage prop”.

The United States Tax Court (Docket No. 11036-92S) in 1994 ruled in favor of Ms. Love stating that “her freakishly large breasts” were “part of her costume.” Whereas clothing, hearing aids, and personal
Grooming, even when it helps promote one’s business, is not depreciable as it benefits the individual, getting 56N size breasts was not done for “the convenience, comfort, or the economy of the individual in pursuing [her] business”. It seems then, that in the eyes of the IRS – you either go big or go home.

Hair Transplant Tax Deductible

Easily Overlooked Medical and Dental Expenses

Some deductible medical and dental expenses are more obvious than others. For example, doctor visits, hospital stays, and diagnostic tests (e.g., X-rays) count as qualified expenses. However, some deductible expenses are easy to miss. Here are 20 medical expenses to keep in mind if you’re itemizing your family’s medical bills (check out IRS Publication 502 for a complete list).1

1. Alternative treatments

Acupuncture is definitely deductible. So are trips to the chiropractor and nontraditional medical practitioners, including Christian Science practitioners. Other alternative treatments may be deductible, too, especially if a doctor orders them.1

2. Adaptive equipment

The costs of wheelchairs, bath chairs, bedside commodes, and other items needed for a disability or condition are deductible. So are special hand controls and other special equipment installed in cars for people with disabilities. Likewise, you can deduct the amount that you pay for an artificial limb (i.e., a prosthetic device) or artificial teeth. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability can deduct the cost of special telephone equipment, such as teletypewriter (TTY) and telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) equipment.2

3. Costs for newborns

No, we don’t mean diapers or babysitters. But breast pumps and other nursing supplies that assist lactation are deductible.5 If your baby formula requires a prescription, the cost in excess of the cost of the regular formula may be allowed.

4. Diabetes-related costs

Blood-testing kits, including blood strips and batteries, are deductible. So is insulin, even though it is not technically viewed as a prescription drug.12

5. Eye- and ear-related conditions

The cost of eye exams, contact lenses, lens solution and cleaner, and prescription eyeglasses (including sunglasses) is deductible, assuming your insurance doesn’t have a vision plan. So is eye surgery such as LASIK and radial keratotomy to treat vision problems. Braille books are also deductible. Those with hearing issues can deduct the costs of exams and hearing aids (including batteries). You can also deduct the cost of programs that teach Braille or lip reading or give language training to correct a condition caused by a congenital disability.2

6. Home improvements (aka ‘capital expenses’)

If you install permanent features or renovate your home to accommodate a disability, the cost may be fully deductible.2 Examples include constructing ramps, widening doorways, lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets, and adding support bars. However, the expense is deductible only for costs above any increase made to the home’s value. For example, putting in a swimming pool or steam room that costs $25,000 isn’t deductible if it adds $30,000 to your home’s value. If the improvement doesn’t increase the value of your home, then the entire cost can be included as a medical expense.

Only reasonable costs to accommodate a home for a person with a disability are considered medical care. Additional costs for personal motives—such as architectural or aesthetic purposes—don’t count as medical expenses and can’t be deducted.2

7. Lodging to receive medical treatment

You can deduct the cost of meals and lodging at a hospital or similar institution if you’re there to receive medical care.2 In other settings, you can deduct the cost of lodging while away from home if you meet all of the following requirements:

  1. The lodging is primarily for and essential to medical care
  2. The medical care is provided by a doctor in a licensed medical care facility
  3. The lodging isn’t lavish or extravagant under the circumstances
  4. The stay isn’t for personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation2

The most you can deduct for lodging is $50 per night for each person (you can include lodging for someone traveling with the person receiving the medical care). For example, if a parent travels with a sick child, the family could deduct up to $100 per night for lodging. However, meals are not included.2

8. Attending medical conferences

You can deduct the cost of admission and transportation to a medical conference if the event is related to your, your spouse’s, or your dependent’s chronic illness.1 Most of the time that you spend at the conference must be for attending sessions on medical information. Note that meals and lodging expenses are not deductible.

9. Organ transplants

Medical expenses for the care you received as a donor or a possible donor of a kidney or other organ are deductible. Similarly, you can include any expenses that you pay for the medical care of a donor in connection with the donation of an organ to you, your spouse, or your dependent. Transportation costs related to the transplant are included.2

10. Home care

For someone unable to manage activities of daily living (ADL), the cost of a personal attendant is deductible. Generally, the deductible portion is limited to personal assistance with daily routines. It does not include the cost of housecleaning and other chores—although this may be hard to separate, realistically speaking. You can also include the cost of the caregiver’s meals and additional amounts that you paid for related household upkeep, such as extra utilities or rent (e.g., for a larger apartment to provide space for the person).2

11. Substance use disorder treatment

The cost of inpatient treatment programs for people with substance use disorders is deductible. This includes the cost of meals and lodging that the facility provides during treatment. You also may be able to include the cost of transportation to and from support organization meetings (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous) in your community.2

12. Reproductive health

You can deduct the cost of birth control pills, pregnancy test kits, legal abortions, vasectomies, and fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization, lab fees, and the temporary storage of eggs or sperm. You can also deduct surgery costs for reversing a prior procedure to prevent pregnancy.2

13. Service animals

You can deduct the cost of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal that helps someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, visually impaired, or someone with other physical disabilities. This generally includes any amounts that you pay to maintain the health and vitality of the service animal—such as food, grooming, and veterinary care—so it can perform its duties.2

14. Dental treatment

The costs that you incur to prevent or alleviate dental disease are deductible. This includes payments to dental hygienists and dentists for teeth cleaning, sealants, fluoride treatments, X-rays, fillings, braces, extractions, dentures, and other dental ailments. Teeth whitening is specifically excluded.2

15. Smoking cessation programs

If you are trying to quit smoking, you can deduct the amounts that you pay for smoking cessation programs and other doctor-prescribed treatments. However, you can’t deduct nonprescription drugs, like nicotine gum and patches, designed to help you quit smoking.2

16. Condition-specific foods

If you have a medical condition such as celiac disease, obesity, or hypertension, you may be able to deduct the cost of special food. The food must not satisfy your regular nutritional needs and must alleviate or treat the illness. The need for the special food must be substantiated by a physician. Only the cost that exceeds the cost of regular foods is deductible.6

17. Children with learning disabilities

Fees that you pay for tutoring to help a child with learning disabilities are deductible. The tutoring must be recommended by a doctor and conducted by a teacher who is trained and qualified to work with children with learning disabilities caused by mental or physical impairments (including nervous system disorders). You can include the cost (tuition, meals, and lodging) of attending a school that offers programs to help children with learning disabilities.7

18. Travel to doctors, pharmacies, and therapy sessions

You can deduct the cost of bus, taxi, train, plane tickets, and ambulance transportation. If you use your vehicle, you can use the IRS-set mileage rate and include your out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of gas and oil. The mileage rate is 16 cents per mile for tax year 2021 and 18 cents for tax year 2022.89 (These are much lower than the allowable rates for business use of a vehicle.)

19. Weight loss programs

If a doctor can confirm that your current weight is a threat to your health, any prescribed weight loss program is deductible. However, programs for maintaining general good health are not deductible. For example, you can’t include membership dues for gyms, health clubs, or spas—but you can include separate fees charged by those facilities for weight loss activities.2

20. Wigs for cancer patients

People with hair loss due to a medical condition like alopecia or cancer treatments like chemotherapy can deduct the cost of a wig. The wig must be purchased on the advice of a physician for the patient’s mental health.

is breast reduction surgery tax deductible

With April 15th rapidly approaching, it seems appropriate to discuss the deductibility of some types of plastic surgery. First a disclaimer: we are plastic surgeons, not accountants. Please consult your tax advisor before taking any deductions for plastic surgery based on information provided in this article.

Medical Expenses Tax Deduction

According to IRS Publication 502, in order to deduct medical expenses they “must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental defect or illness. They do not include expenses that are merely beneficial to general health, such as vitamins or a vacation.” (On the last point, see our blog on medical tourism). So any money expended to cover a medical insurance deductible is tax deductible.

Plastic Surgery Tax Deduction

There are some plastic surgery operations where the individual might not meet insurance company criteria and hence may not be paid for by the patient’s insurance. Chief among these is probably breast reduction surgery for a woman with back pain secondary to large breasts. Insurance companies set their own rules including weight of breast tissue that needs to be removed based on a woman’s height and weight. If a woman with back, neck, or shoulder pain had to pay for breast reduction surgery out of pocket, she should be able to deduct the cost of the surgery on her tax form.

Now what about cosmetic plastic surgery? According to the IRS “you cannot include in your medical expenses the amount you pay for unnecessary cosmetic surgery”. Examples that Publication 502 frowns upon include “face lifts, hair transplants, hair removal (electrolysis), and liposuction.” However, medical expenses for cosmetic surgery do pass muster with the IRS if “it is necessary to improve a deformity arising from or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from and accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease.

Then there is the case that has reached epic proportions (pun intended). Cynthia S. Hess, a “self employed professional entertainer and exotic dancer”, known by the stage name, “Chesty Love”, underwent implantation of custom-made silicone breast implants that increased her bust size to 56N (not a misprint). She attempted to depreciate the cost of her implants on Schedule C of her 1040 as a reasonable and necessary “stage prop”.

The United States Tax Court (Docket No. 11036-92S) in 1994 ruled in favor of Ms. Love stating that “her freakishly large breasts” were “part of her costume.” Whereas clothing, hearing aids, and personal grooming, even when they help promote one’s business are not depreciable as they benefit the individual, getting 56N size breasts was not done for “the convenience, comfort, or the economy of the individual in pursuing [her] business”. It seems then, that in the eyes of the IRS – you either go big or go home.


personal appearance tax deduction

Soo has over 10 years of experience at publicly traded companies and public accounting firms offering tax, accounting, payroll and advisory services to clients in diverse industries, including manufacturing, wholesale and retail, construction, real estate development, banking, finance, and professional and legal consulting. At Pricewaterhouse Cooper, she worked with many foreign-owned companies and advised clients on a broad range of issues, including federal and state tax minimization, determining the optimal structure for new foreign investments, and restructuring and reorganization for existing operations.

Soo has over 10 years of experience at publicly traded companies and public accounting firms offering tax, accounting, payroll and advisory services to clients in diverse industries, including manufacturing, wholesale and retail, construction, real estate development, banking, finance, and professional and legal consulting. At Pricewaterhouse Cooper, she worked with many foreign-owned companies and advised clients on a broad range of issues, including federal and state tax minimization, determining the optimal structure for new foreign investments, and restructuring and reorganization for existing operations.

Can you write off a haircut as a work expense? What about your latest Sephora haul — or even cosmetic surgery?

Sometimes, the answer is yes. But in general, these deductions are tricky to claim.

In November of 2020, The New York Times reported that Trump deducted $70,000’s worth of haircuts and hairstyling expenses for his appearances on The Apprentice. (His businesses also claimed at least $95,464 in hair and makeup fees for his daughter, Ivanka.)

Tax professionals generally don’t recommend following in Trump’s footsteps. Turns out, most of them were pretty skeptical of his haircut deductions.

For the typical self-employed taxpayer, it’s hard to make a case for personal appearance deductions — but it can be done. Here’s everything you need to know about writing off haircuts and other personal grooming expenses

Can maintaining your appearance be tax-deductible?

Self-employed people — including freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners — can sometimes write off the cost of maintaining their appearance. (After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018, employees can no longer claim business-related expenses.)

The requirements here are pretty strict. The IRS typically considers the following purchases personal expenses — not business expenses:

That means, in most cases, these expenses aren’t tax-deductible. Under some circumstances, though, they can count as business expenses. We’ll talk about each of these categories in detail later!

Personal grooming as a business write-off

A business expense needs to be “ordinary” and “necessary” — which basically means it’s in line with industry standards. Long story short, an ordinary expense is common and accepted in your line of work, while a necessary expense is essential to running your business.

These two requirements give self-employed people a bit of wiggle room when it comes to appearance-related deductions. Stage makeup might be an ordinary expense and necessary for a model, for example, while an oil contractor would raise eyebrows if they tried to claim it.

The rule of thumb for deducting grooming expenses

Grooming expenses are a bit of a gray area in the tax code. But at the end of the day, the basic rule of this deduction is actually pretty simple.

For any personal appearance expenses you’d like to claim, ask yourself this: would you still be paying for this if you had a different job?

If the answer’s yes, that expense probably isn’t tax-deductible.

If it’s suitable for everyday use, it’s not a business expense

Think of it like this: if you’re getting the same bangs trim, brow wax, or mani-pedi you usually get, it’s hard to argue that the expense is purely for business purposes — even if a polished appearance does benefit you at work.

Put another way, a personal appearance expense is only tax-deductible if it’s actively unsuitable for life outside of work.

In that regard, taking these write-offs is very similar to claiming clothing expenses. Scrubs, safety gear, and distinctive uniforms count as business expenses. But a new suit doesn’t — even if you have to wear one on the job.

Why? Because you can go to dinner in it without looking out of place.

How to write off personal appearance expenses

It’s tricky to treat any appearance-related cost as a deductible business expense. But here’s the good news: you can make a case for it.

Let’s take a closer look at how to write off these types of expenses.

Haircuts and haircare

Haircuts and hairstyling are only tax-deductible when they’re strictly for work.

That’s why Trump’s $70,000 haircut deduction didn’t pass the sniff test for most accountants. He might have gotten the cut for The Apprentice, but he could wear that same hairstyle outside of the studio.

Rule of thumb: If you can go about your business with your hair styled in a certain way, you can’t claim it’s for business use only.

Styles created specifically for work-related photoshoots and shows are fair game. Neat, professional-looking cuts aren’t.

Makeup

If you work in the entertainment industry, you might have to buy specialty makeup to wear onstage — or on-camera. If you can use the same products outside of work, though, you wouldn’t be able to claim it on your taxes. (The exception, of course, is for professional makeup artists who buy cosmetics to use on their clients.)

Zombie makeup for professional actors, clown makeup for a juggler, and long, feathery fake lashes on a stage performer would all qualify. After all, it’s hard to imagine anyone showing up in those looks to brunch.

Deducting makeup from specialty stores

Here’s a pro tip for deducting cosmetic expenses: If you buy your products from professional suppliers, it’s much easier to make a case for writing it off. Shopping at Sephora or Walgreens, on the other hand, can make it look like you’re just adding to your personal makeup collection.

If you do pay for specialty makeup or other work-specific grooming expenses, you’ll have to keep track of those purchases to write them off. With Keeper, you don’t have to do it all by hand.

The app will automatically scan your accounts for write-offs, including purchases from professional makeup brands like Ben Nye and Mehron.

Manicures and nail art

The rules for manicures are very similar to the rules for makeup: they have to be unsuitable for everyday wear.

Say you get long, jewel-encrusted acrylics to star in a music video. They make it hard to use your phone or pick anything up, so you get them removed as soon as you’re done shooting. Your elaborate nail art would count as a business expense.

Now, pretend you got a French manicure for a TV appearance. After leaving the studio, you go about your business as usual. No one looks at your nails, and they don’t prevent you from doing anything you’d normally do.

Your manicure wouldn’t count as a write-off, even though you only got it for your TV spot.

Body enhancements

The IRS allows certain professionals to deduct expenses related to their physical body appearance. It all depends on what’s ordinary and necessary for your industry.

For example, bodybuilders can deduct the cost of body oils they use during competitions. Professional athletes, meanwhile, can write off the cost of coaching for competitions.

Here’s one important thing to keep in mind: dietary and nutritional supplements aren’t tax-deductible. That’s because they provide a benefit in your personal life — not just your work life. (For that reason, writing off a gym membership can be tough as well!)

Cosmetic surgery

It’s rare for the cost of cosmetic surgery to be treated as a legitimate tax deduction. The procedure has to result in an appearance unsuitable for daily life.

For that reason, it’s pretty much only possible to write off extreme and niche surgeries. (We’ll get into a court case about this down below!) Ordinary, appearance-enhancing procedures — think Botox, liposuction, or a brow lift — can only be personal expenses.

Cosmetic dentistry

Cosmetic dental procedures, like teeth whitening, are treated very similarly to plastic surgery. After all, these kinds of treatments come with a clear personal benefit.

Keep in mind, though: Some dental treatments with cosmetic implications can be treated as deductible medical expenses if they’re considered medically necessary. Dental crowns, implants, and orthodontia might fall into this category.

Clothing

As we’ve mentioned, work clothing is difficult to deduct. The clothes you write off have to be used exclusively for work. If you can keep wearing them when you’re off the clock, you should treat them as a personal expense.

One possible exception? Branded clothing. If your clothes feature your business name or logo, they basically work like business cards, so you can treat them as an advertising expense.

To learn more about these deductions — including rules for deducting the cost of dry cleaning and laundry on a business trip — check out our guide to writing off clothes for work.

iRS cosmetic surgery deduction

Whether you’re a business owner, queen of side hustles, or working a traditional 9-5, we could all use a little help offsetting the day-to-day costs of working and living. As the W2s and 1099s roll in, you may be looking for ways to maximize your refund (or minimize what you owe)—and if looking great is part of your job, you may be wondering if you can write off your cosmetic surgery.

Before we delve into the details, we should get the bad news out of the way: barring very special circumstances, it’s unlikely that the IRS is going to let you deduct expenses for your breast augmentation or liposuction—even if you need to maintain a certain look for your work.

Here’s what you need to know if you work in the entertainment industry and are hoping to deduct expenses related to your personal appearance.

What are “personal appearance expenses?”

Performing artists and those in the entertainment industry routinely incur expenses related to maintaining their image, known as personal appearance expenses. Typically, these expenses include certain types of clothing, stage makeup, and certain hair and body care goods. Rules surrounding deduction of personal appearance expenses are incredibly strict, and most purchases don’t make the cut.

Makeup or clothing that can be used for business and recreation will be rejected, while items such as for-work-only specialty costumes and professional stage makeup have a higher chance of being deductible.

As a rule of the thumb, only expenses incurred for goods and services that are used only for work can be deducted. That means makeup or clothing that can be used for business and recreation will be rejected, while specialty costumes or professional-grade stage makeup may have a higher chance of being deductible.

Is cosmetic surgery a personal appearance expense that can be deducted?

Technically, cosmetic surgery falls under the category of personal appearance expenses, though it lives in somewhat of a grey area. That’s because permanent modification to your body is difficult to categorize as being solely for work—unlike a special costume, you can’t “take it off” when you clock out.

If the likelihood of being able to write off other personal appearance expenses is rare, deducting the cost of your cosmetic surgery is near impossible—despite the well-known case of Cynthia Hess (AKA “Chesty Love”), an adult entertainer who successfully claimed her breast augmentation as a business expense in the early ‘90s.

How Cynthia perpetuated the myth of deducting cosmetic surgery on your taxes (and why you probably can’t do the same)

While Hess did indeed win her case with the IRS and go on to enjoy newfound success after her procedure and subsequent notoriety, it’s important to fully understand how she was able to meet the strict criteria the government places on personal appearance expenses.

Two conditions in particular must be met for the IRS to consider your personal appearance expenses a valid business deduction:

Essentially, you have to prove that your cosmetic surgery is necessary for you to do your job and that the resulting outcome not only doesn’t benefit your everyday life but is also inappropriate for it.

As you can imagine, meeting those conditions requires an extreme form of cosmetic surgery—and Hess’s eventual size 56N bust fit the bill. As an exotic dancer, Hess claimed she experienced smaller earnings due to her smaller breast size, and her agent suggested she opt for an excessive enhancement to improve her career. While she did experience an uptick in her earnings, her success came with a cost, including daily discomfort, bacterial infections, and ridicule from the public during her off hours.

The case of Cynthia Hess is a rare exception to the tax deduction rules—and her extreme breast augmentation came with a lifetime of discomfort.

With all of these factors, it was difficult for the IRS to argue that Hess’s surgery was motivated by anything other than success at work—and the tax court judge approved the deduction and categorized her breast implants as stage props. The case of Cynthia Hess is by and large a rare exception to the rule, and her extreme breast augmentation came with a lifetime of discomfort which could never be worth the amount saved on one year’s taxes.

Make sure your motivation for surgery is healthy (and we’ll make sure you understand your financing options)

Most patients who choose to have cosmetic surgery do so to feel more confident and comfortable day-to-day, in any work, social, or other setting—and enjoying success in your career should be thought of as a cherry on top, not your primary motivator. If an employer is urging you to consider extreme body modifications that will cause turmoil in your personal life, it may be time to consider a new job.

That being said, we work with a number of Las Vegas entertainers who hope to enhance their appearance, and our primary goal is to help achieve a look you’ll love safely. Las Vegas cosmetic surgeon Dr. Pancholi is well-known for his artistry and surgical skill, particularly when it comes to breast augmentation. As a trusted cosmetic surgery authority, Dr. Pancholi stays up-to-date on the latest advancements in surgical techniques, scar-minimizing methods, and breast implant technology so he can ensure beautiful outcomes, speedy recovery, and a safe, positive experience.

Stellar results don’t come cheaply, and we understand that cosmetic surgery isn’t always in the budget. That’s why we will help you understand your payment and financing options, so you can move forward confidently. Contact us today to learn more during a private consult.


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