Do you need to modify your home to account for a family member’s medical condition?
Strategy: Draw up plans now for home improvements. If you qualify, you may be able to deduct a portion of the cost as a medical expense.
Beginning in 2013, the chance for a medical deduction will be reduced or even eliminated. So you should take action in 2012.
Here’s the whole story: To qualify as a deductible medical expense, the cost must be incurred primarily for the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness. For a medically necessary home improvement, the deductible medical expense equals the cost above the resulting increase in the home’s value if you own the home. The entire cost of improvements made by tenants is eligible for the deduction.
However, unreimbursed medical expenses are deductible only to the extent the annual total exceeds 7.5% of AGI. Even worse, the AGI threshold is scheduled to increase to 10% in 2013.
Example: You need to install an elevator and make other modifications in your home to accommodate a disabled individual. The improvements will cost $20,000 and an appraiser estimates it will increase your home’s value by $8,000. None of the cost is covered by your insurance. For simplicity, let’s say your annual AGI is $220,000 and you have $2,000 in other unreimbursed medical expenses for the year.
If you make the home improvements in 2012, you can deduct $5,500 of the cost. Reason: That’s the amount by which your unreimbursed medical expenses ($22,000) exceed 7.5% of your AGI ($16,500). However, if you wait until 2013, your deduction is zero because your expenses ($22,000) don’t exceed 10% of your AGI ($22,000).
Tip: You can also deduct operating and maintenance costs for a medically necessary home improvement, subject to the AGI deduction floor.