Medical Deduction for Meals and lodgings
By Julian Block
Special rules apply to medical-care deductions for lodging expenses while away from home. As a general rule, meals and lodgings are deductible as medical expenses only if incurred in a hospital or similar institution.
Formerly, that restriction eliminated any deduction for the cost of a stay at a hotel while away from home to obtain outpatient treatment at a hospital -- for instance, chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. This held true even when outpatient care was less expensive than inpatient care and also when the patient was incapable of traveling alone and had to be accompanied by another person, as in the case of an infant accompanied by a parent.
Now, however, the law allows a deduction of up to $50 per day for away-from-home lodgings to receive outpatient treatment. To qualify, such lodgings must be “primarily for and essential to medical care provided by a physician” in a hospital or a similar facility, such as the Mayo Clinic. But no deduction at all is allowed, says Congress, for hotel rooms or other lodgings that are “lavish or extravagant under the circumstances” or if there is any “significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel away from home.” Put more plainly, no tax break is allowed for what is actually a vacation. Moreover, outlays other than lodgings, such as food, remain nondeductible.
TIP. The $50 ceiling is on a per-person basis. Take the situation of a parent who accompanies a dependent child on a trip for medical reasons. The per-day deduction for their stay at a hotel is a maximum of $100.