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Health club dues: When to trim your tax bill

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Q. I recently joined a health club for health reasons. The person who signed me up said I could deduct the annual cost as a medical expense. Is she right? Exton, Pa.

A. It depends. Generally, you can’t deduct health-club dues or similar amounts paid to benefit your general health. But you may be able to deduct health-club dues that are medically necessary for the treatment of a specific illness or injury (subject to the usual tax-law limits for medical-expense deductions). Example: No deduction is allowed if you’re joining the club merely to lose weight, but you may be able to deduct the dues if you’re combating diabetes, say, or some other illness. Tip: The IRS has said that the cost isn’t automatically deductible just because a physician prescribes the program. (IRS information 2002-0077)

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