Medical Expense Deduction Spared
All eyes have been on Congress in recent weeks to see what would happen with regard to tax reform. Republicans released their final tax bill on Friday, December 15, 2017, and we were pleased to learn that not only does it retain the medical expense deduction, but it also temporarily expands it for two years.
The medical expense deduction previously permitted an individual who spends more than 10% of his adjusted gross income (AGI) on qualified unreimbursed medical expenses to deduct those expenses on his federal individual income tax return, provided the individual itemizes. The new tax bill, however, provides that taxpayers who itemize their deductions may write off qualifying medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their AGI for the tax years 2017 and 2018. After that, the threshold will return to 10%.
Deductible medical expenses include preventive care, treatment, surgeries, dental and vision care, psychiatric treatment, prescription medications, prescription eyeglasses, contacts, false teeth, hearing aids, and long-term care expenses. Qualified long-term care services must be necessary diagnostic, preventive, therapeutic, curing, treating, mitigating, and rehabilitative services, and maintenance and personal care services required by a chronically ill individual and provided under a plan of care prescribed by a licensed health care practitioner. To qualify as chronically ill, an individual must be certified by a licensed health care practitioner (e.g., a physician, registered professional nurse, or licensed social worker) as being unable to perform without substantial assistance from another individual at least two activities of daily living for a period of at least 90 days due to a loss of functional capacity, or as requiring substantial supervision for protection due to severe cognitive impairment, such as memory loss or disorientation. The licensed health care practitioner should prepare a letter certifying that the individual is chronically ill based upon the previously stated criteria.
Prior to December 15th, the future of the medical expense deduction was unclear. An earlier version of the tax bill proposed its elimination, which would have resulted in a higher tax bill for nearly 9 million Americans.
Ask Kit Kat – Where is Mary Lee?
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, who is Mary Lee?
Kit Kat: Well, you probably wouldn’t guess this in a million years! Mary Lee is a great white shark that was tagged in 2012 off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Her tag hasn’t pinged since June of this year (2017). Scientists are baffled as to the cause. It could be that the battery has died in the device, or the device has fallen off, or organic material has grown over the sensor rendering it inoperative. The scientific community and the general public miss her, because her whereabouts were followed by 129,000 people on Twitter. She was a huge specimen weighing nearly 3,500 pounds and having a length of 16 feet. She is one of the largest sharks ever tagged—that was part of her uniqueness. Chris Fischer, founder of Ocearch.org, which tagged her and other sharks, estimates she is between 40 and 50 years of age.
She became an ambassador of sorts for the shark community. For the five years that her transmitter transmitted signals, scientists learned a lot about the travel patterns of great whites. Originally tagged in Massachusetts in 2012, by 2015, she was off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia. From their other data points, they estimate she is probably now swimming along the coast of South Carolina or Georgia. Her various sightings, which occur when she surfaces long enough to activate a wet-dry sensor, led to Jim Ware, a digital specialist with the Wilmington Star News, creating posts on Twitter with the handle @MaryLeeShark. According to Mr. Ware, “The (Twitter) account really took on a life of its own. It just kept going and going. And it spawned many other shark Twitter accounts.” This past June (2017) was the last Mary Lee has been heard from. Stay tuned for more information on Mary Lee. We’re not giving up on her just yet. (Lee Tolliver, “America’s most famous shark has gone silent. We may never hear from her again,” The Virginian-Pilot, Dec. 18,2017, p. 1 & 7)
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