Best movie with a tax theme
Last week at my other tax blog: Romney tie to tax shelter; Refund locator issues

Plastic surgery usually isn't tax deductible

Hollywood's biggest night is almost here. For film fans, it's a chance to see not only who takes home an Academy Award, but to check out the annual red carpet parade.

The television commentators focus on the designer duds, but the hubby and I debate which stars got the best and worst plastic surgery jobs. Most years, it's a heated competition for the worst nip and tuck. is getting a head start on the annual Oscars facelift (or more) guessing game with speculation on which supporting actress nominees have had a little work done.

Don't worry, ladies. The men don't get a pass. The site also offers suggested improvements for some of the supporting actor nominees.

One Oscar hopeful, however, isn't making any excuses for work she has planned.

"I am going to get my boobs lifted," Octavia Spencer, supporting actress nominee for her role as Minny Jackson in "The Help," told Parade magazine.

"That's going to be my first [post-Oscars] gift. I'm going to do that," said Spencer. "I figured going into my forties I want my boobs where they were when I was 17."

Tricks of the trade: Speculation or revelations aside, many actors and actresses do go under the knife, some with frightening regularity.

It's easy to understand why. In the entertainment business looks count for a lot.

But for most of the patients in Tinseltown, today's Daily Tax Tip is bad news: Cosmetic surgery usually isn't tax deductible.

The IRS will only accept plastic surgery expenses as Schedule A itemized medical deductions if the procedure is medically necessary.

So if while repairing your deviated septum that's been causing respiratory problems your doctor makes your nose look a little better, too, then you're OK tax wise. Remember Bristol Palin's corrective jaw surgery?

But a rhinoplasty simply because you don't like the look of your schnoz can't be counted at tax time.

The IRS spells out its position in Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses:

Generally, you cannot include in medical expenses the amount you pay for unnecessary cosmetic surgery. This includes any procedure that is directed at improving the patient's appearance and does not meaningfully promote the proper function of the body or prevent or treat illness or disease. You generally cannot include in medical expenses the amount you pay for procedures such as face lifts, hair transplants, hair removal (electrolysis), and liposuction.  

You can include in medical expenses the amount you pay for cosmetic surgery 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.  

Example: An individual undergoes surgery that removes a breast as part of treatment for cancer. She pays a surgeon to reconstruct the breast. The surgery to reconstruct the breast corrects a deformity directly related to the disease. The cost of the surgery is includible in her medical expenses.

Some exceptions: Of course, we are talking taxes, so there are always cases that diverge from the usual rules.

Tax deductions for cosmetic surgery have been allowed in some circumstances where they were found to be related to how a taxpayer does his or her job.

The most famous (infamous?) case here involved an exotic dancer who performed under the stage name Chesty Love. She claimed that her size 56N breasts, enlarged from 56FF, were used as a stage prop to help her make more money and that she gained no personal benefit from them.

The IRS argued that the surgical enhancement's costs should be characterized as nondeductible personal expenses.

The Tax Court sided with Love. Special Trial Judge Joan Seitz Pate said that for someone in Love's line of work, large breasts are business assets and implants are a necessary stage prop.

The judge also found that no personal benefit was derived by Cynthia from the excessive breast implants, which, Pate noted, are not the type usually sought by women seeking to enhance their personal appearance.

As in all Tax Court cases, the ruling noted that the decision applied only to the particular hearing. This is one time where I truly believe that disclaimer.

You also might find these items of interest:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Tax Deductible

GREAT REVIEW! I pretty much agree with all your thoughts you said in your post, especially at the end of your article. Thank you, your post is very valuable as always. Keep up the good work! You’ve got +1 more reader of your super blog.

The comments to this entry are closed.