No kid loves his braces, and no parent likes the cost of dental work. The good news is that the cost of braces is deductible on your income taxes. Whether you can claim the deduction depends on a number of factors, including your income and your total deductible medical bills.
IRS Publication 502, "Medical and Dental Expenses," notes that anything you pay for preventing or treating your and your family's dental problems is deductible. That includes fluoride treatments, regular checkups, teeth cleaning, dental X-rays, fillings and braces. You can also write off the cost of traveling to the dentist, claiming a standard tax deduction per mile of travel. Teeth whitening treatments are an exception, as the IRS classes them with cosmetic surgery: Whitening makes teeth look better, but doesn't improve their health, so it isn't deductible.
If your family has dental insurance, you have to subtract any reimbursement you receive from the cost of the braces to get your deduction. That applies to any other program that reimburses you for medical expenses. You also deduct any part of the cost you paid with money from a health savings account or flexible spending account. If you pay part or all of the premiums for your dental insurance, you can claim the money you spend on the premiums as a deductible expense.
Nobody gets to deduct all their medical expenses for the year. To figure out how much you can claim, add up all your allowable expenses. Then take your adjusted gross income -- a figure you calculate on the front of your 1040 -- and multiply it by 7.5 percent. Subtract that from your total expenses and whatever's left is deductible. If you make $75,000 a year, 7.5 percent is $5,625; if your expenses are less than that, you have no deduction. If your expenses are $8,000, including the braces, your deduction is $2,375.
You use Schedule A of your tax forms to claim your medical deduction, as well as any other itemized deductions. This is only worth doing if itemizing brings you a larger tax savings than the standard deduction. As of 2012, the standard deduction ranges from $5,950 for singles through $11,900 for married couples filing a joint return. If you're not sure whether to itemize, calculate it both ways and see which gets you the better deal.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.