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Fat Deductions From the IRS

April 05, 2002

Grab a doughnut and digest this: The Internal Revenue Service, the maligned bureaucratic ogre that emerges like a groundhog every April around the 15th, has announced that obese people can deduct out-of-pocket expenses for weight-loss efforts (Yay!). But restrictions are tight (Boo!). You can deduct diet expenses without deducting pounds for the rest of your possibly shortened life (Yay!). But you can amend only three past returns, meaning recent corpulence is deductible but older fat isn't (Boo!).

Obesity and weight-loss advocates hailed the decision because it makes obesity a separate disease, tied to some 300,000 taxpayer deaths per year, instead of some voluntary condition achieved by, say, overeating or underexercising. Estimates say 54 million Americans are obese--30-plus pounds heavier than healthy. That's about 1.62 billion pounds of obesity, enough to flatten even the sturdiest couch. But with a tax write-off as an official incentive to pork up so we can perpetually struggle against weight to forever save taxes, we might be able to nudge that obesity stat closer to 2 billion pounds in no time.

This new healthy tax write-off business can take on an oversized life of its own. Here are some other tax deductions to consider: Since diet foods aren't tax-deductible, maybe investments in super-sized fast foods should be--to reach the optimum obesity write-off level quickest. The same thinking suggests tax deductions of 28 cents for every mile driven, instead of run or biked. No write-offs for wine or carrots, which might be healthy, but a tax write-off of, say, 50 cents for every can of beer consumed might work (30 cents for light beer). And clothing deductions are musts; how can the IRS provide tax incentives to fatten up to slim down without expecting new clothes at each stage? Plus, naturally, mileage deductions to shop for them. A deduction for TV remote batteries makes sense. The IRS allows weight-loss write-offs only if, with medical expenses, they total at least 7.5% of the obese one's adjusted gross income. So as well as eating more, many of us seeking to qualify will also no doubt seek sizable pay reductions.

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