Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Deducting the Cost of Laser Eye Surgery

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Deducting the Cost of Laser Eye Surgery

Article excerpt

Many American taxpayers undergo clinical procedures to correct vision problems. The most common in today's medical environment is laser eye surgery, commonly called Lasik.

Taxpayers cannot deduct the cost of cosmetic surgery unless the procedure is necessary to correct a deformity from a congenital abnormality, personal injury or disease--and the question of whether Lasik is a cosmetic procedure is open for discussion. IRC section 213 (d) (1) (a) defines medical care expenses as amounts paid for the "diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body." Clearly, laser eye surgery affects a structure or a function of the body and its purpose is to correct a physical defect.

Although there is no revenue ruling concerning the deductibility of laser eye surgery, the IRS did issue a letter ruling (9625049) addressing whether radial keratotomy (RK)--a predecessor of laser eye surgery--was deductible under section 213. Today, RK has been replaced almost entirely by Lasik, which is used in about 95% of the surgical procedures to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

Letter ruling 9625049 defined RK as "a surgical procedure that involves making small incisions in the cornea radiating outward from the central area." The ruling also focused on Treasury regulations section 1.213-1(e)(1)(ic), which says, "Medical care includes operations or treatments, including surgery, affecting any structure or function of the body, which is primarily undertaken for prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness."

The letter ruling said that under the facts presented, RK was a surgical procedure that affected a structure or function of the body, its purpose was to correct a physical defect and it was not cosmetic surgery. …

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