Is LASIK Surgery Tax Deductible?

March 29, 2022


According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), LASIK is a form of laser vision correction procedure approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help treat vision problems such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. The procedure uses a laser to reshape the cornea and improve the way light rays are focused onto the retina.

Individuals opting for LASIK or laser eye surgery to replace corrective lenses and glasses often have many questions regarding the procedure. And one of the most frequently asked questions is: “Is LASIK surgery tax-deductible?”

Despite being a medical procedure, most insurance companies do not cover LASIK as it’s considered an elective procedure similar to cosmetic surgery. Hence, most people resort to flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA) to help cover the procedure’s cost. But did you know that there is another option available to you to help you save money on LASIK: tax deductions. 

Can I Write-off LASIK Surgery on My Taxes?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the amount paid for eye surgeries to correct defective vision, such as LASIK or radial keratotomy, can be included in medical expenses and deducted from taxes. However, the total medical expenses for the year have to meet a certain threshold for you to be eligible for this option, and you must also itemize your medical expense deduction. 

The Internal Revenue Service defines medical expenses as the costs of diagnosis, mitigation, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease and the costs of treatments affecting any function or part of the body. These may include payments for the medical services offered by surgeons, physicians, dentists, and other medical professionals and the costs of equipment, diagnostic devices, and supplies needed for these medical purposes.   

Itemizing to Claim the Medical Expense Deduction

To claim LASIK as a tax deduction, you will have to itemize your deductions on your tax return. This implies that you may not be able to claim the standard deduction for your filing status. Instead, you may have to sum up all the payments made towards medical expenses for you and your dependents over the year. Then, add them to all other expenses you paid that qualify as tax-deductible, including charitable donations and mortgage interest. You must then enter the entire cost on Schedule A, which must be attached to your tax return.

Ultimately, you may want to talk to your tax preparer or a tax professional to decide if claiming laser vision correction as a medical expense is sensible for your situation. Generally, itemizing makes sense only if the total amount of your itemized deduction is greater than the standard deduction for your filing status. This is because you may only receive an extra tax break if your itemized deduction is greater than your standard deduction.

What are the Limitations to Writing-Off LASIK on My Taxes?

It’s important to note that you may not be able to claim all of your medical expenses itemized on your tax return. You can only deduct your medical and dental expenses if the amount is more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). For example, if your AGI is $65,000, you can only deduct medical expenses that exceed $4,875. Hence, if your total medical expense for the year is $7,000, you can only claim a deduction of $2,125 with an AGI of $65,000. 

However, as the Internal Revenue Service allows you to deduct various other medical care expenses in addition to the actual cost of the refractive procedure, you may be able to surpass the 7.5% threshold and claim part of the eye surgery cost. The 7.5% threshold was 10% before but was lowered with the legislative changes at the end of 2019. 

Some of the medical care associated deductible costs include:

  • Transportation costs incurred to get to and from the surgery center. These could include bus, cab, or train fares or the price of gasoline if you had someone drive you to the surgery. You also have the option of claiming 17 cents per mile as of 2020 if you travel to the surgery by automobile. 
  • Cost of meals and lodging provided by the center during treatment (you can only claim the cost of meals and lodging as a medical expense deduction if the doctor provided the medical treatment in a licensed hospital or health institute).
  • Prescription drugs 
  • Health insurance premiums

Is It Worth It?

Writing-off LASIK on your taxes can be a great idea, as it reduces the taxable income and saves you money. However, your total out-of-pocket costs for the surgery and other medical care expenses for the year should exceed the standard deduction to make claiming them worth it. As of 2021, the standard deduction for single filers and married filing separately is $12,550, while the standard deduction for joint filers and the head of household is $25,100 and $18,800, respectively. 

Other Ways to Save Money on LASIK

In addition to tax deductions, there are several other ways to cover the cost of laser eye surgery or even bladeless LASIK and make it affordable to move forward with the procedure. Some of these financial options are:

  • Flexible Spending Plans – Most employee health plans include flexible spending accounts that allow you to set aside and use pre-tax dollars for eligible medical care expenses. As LASIK surgery is an eligible expense, you may use these plans to help pay for your surgery cost. Contributions to these plans are made through regular and automatic deductions from your paychecks. And depending on your income and tax bracket, these plans can save you as much as $2000. For more information on this financing option, consult your health insurance benefits administrator. 
  • Credit Cards – Most patients have credit ratings that qualify them for credit cards with no interest or extremely low-interest rates for the first year. Some patients use these credit cards to pay for the vision correction procedure and pay off the balance before they incur significant interest. 
  • Monthly Payment Options – Most premium LASIK providers work with healthcare financing companies to provide affordable options for their patients, including splitting the entire surgery cost into affordable monthly payments. These forms of payment plans can span for a few months to over five years, some even without incurring extra costs. 

Although most health insurance policies do not cover LASIK claiming it to be cosmetic surgery and an elective procedure, the IRS considers this refractive procedure a tax-deductible medical expense, allowing it to be written-off as health expenses in taxes. Hence, choose a good tax advisor or tax software to guide you and help you take advantage of every deductible cost available to you. 

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