Can Cosmetic Surgery be a Business Expense?

Learn how cosmetic surgery costs can be deducted as business expenses under certain circumstances.

Can Cosmetic Surgery be a Business Expense?

It may surprise you to learn that, in some cases, cosmetic surgery is a tax deduction approved by the IRS. Costs related to maintaining and changing your personal appearance are only tax-deductible under certain circumstances. Technically, cosmetic surgery falls under the category of personal appearance expenses, even though it lives in a somewhat gray area. This is because permanently modifying your body is difficult to classify as if it were solely for work, unlike a special costume, you can't “take it off” when you go out.

If you work in the entertainment industry, you may need to buy special makeup to use on stage or in front of the camera. However, if you can use the same products outside of work, you won't be able to declare them in your taxes. The exception, of course, is for professional makeup artists who buy cosmetics to use with their clients. You probably already know that charitable deductions are tax-deductible.

But what about the cost of caring for your pet? Or your son's clarinet lessons? In select cases, the IRS has allowed taxpayers to deduct unconventional expenses on their tax returns. For example, these costs may be a qualified medical expense or are ordinary and necessary business expenses of an entrepreneur. That means it might be more difficult for filers to request unconventional itemized deductions on their returns. Generally, you can't charge a tax relief for cosmetic surgery.

The Tax Court allowed an exception in the case of Cynthia S. Hess, then self-employed exotic dancer in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She tried to get a tax break from depreciation on the implants, declaring them a deductible business expense. The IRS initially blocked the deduction, stating that the implants were a personal cost.

However, the Tax Court found that this was a commercial expense and ruled in favor of Hess. In 1990, the Tax Court ruled in favor of John and Joana French, who tried to cancel their 1984 taxes on a private plane they used to check in at their rental apartment. The French were based in San Jose, California, and their condominium was in Mammoth Lakes, California. Both had the option of driving more than six hours or taking the only commercial flight available to take care of their property.

The IRS had argued that the family liked to fly to Mammoth Lakes and that they skied and swam during their visits, so the trips were actually vacations. On the other side of the spectrum, if you have a service animal or guide dog, you can deduct the cost of buying, training and maintaining it. This would be counted as a medical expense. Finally, if your pet becomes an Internet sensation, you may be able to deduct related costs as business expenses, Greene-Lewis said.

The IRS has a nine-part test to help you make the determination, addressing the time and effort spent making your business profitable and whether you keep accurate books and records. The same goes for the weight-loss aids that the doctor prescribes to treat a particular illness. This may be deductible, but only to the extent that it is not covered by insurance. In 1962, the IRS added a provision allowing a tax deduction for clarinet classes based on an orthodontist's recommendation that the woodwind instrument could help correct a child's overbite.

Do you have confidential informational advice? We want to hear from you. Get this in your inbox and learn more about our products and services. To be deductible, an expense must be considered ordinary within the industry or profession (i.e., Suppose that cosmetic surgery is considered ordinary and necessary and therefore deductible). Under those circumstances, the person or entity that paid it would receive the deduction.

If the production company paid it, it would get the deduction. However, surgery must be ordinary and necessary for the recipient of the surgery; otherwise it could be taxable compensation for the recipient of the surgery. If it is ordinary and necessary for the actor and paid by the actor, then they will receive the deduction. As W2 and 1099 arrive, you may be looking for ways to maximize your refund (or minimize what you owe) and if looking good is part of your job then you may be wondering if you can deduct your cosmetic surgery costs from taxes? As an advisor to performing artists and production companies for many decades I have never encountered a setting where a production company required an actor to undergo cosmetic surgery; these required standard business attire and recommended a conservative style with clean hair and demure nail polish.

Basically you have to show that your cosmetic surgery is necessary to do your job and that its resulting result not only doesn't benefit your daily life but is also inappropriate for it. Hamper didn't provide any evidence that his airborne contact lenses had a special prescription and he bought his makeup in stores that sold normal cosmetics. And if your home is your primary place of work then you can deduct transportation costs to get from your home to another place of work in the same business or business activity. Claiming the cost of cosmetic surgery as a tax deduction is almost always impossible but it has been done under extremely specific circumstances; most patients who choose cosmetic surgery do so to feel more confident and comfortable every day in any work social or other environment with career success being considered as an added bonus rather than their main motivator.

Makeup or clothing that can be used for business and recreation will be rejected while items such as special work-only costumes and professional stage makeup are more likely to be deductible.

Mary Boucher Brown
Mary Boucher Brown

Certified entrepreneur. Avid twitter guru. Hardcore coffee nerd. Passionate music advocate. Friendly twitter guru.

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