An elliptical trainer lets you simulate running -- two miles, five miles, 10 miles -- without having to travel more than the length of the machine. It's a popular exercise device, but it's not tax-deductible for most people. While the IRS does allow you to write off medical expenses, in most cases that deduction won't stretch to cover home exercise equipment.
Weight Loss Write-Offs
Even if your doctor told you to exercise more or to lose weight, that doesn't make your efforts to get in shape a medical write-off. None of your fitness efforts are deductible unless the doctor tied them to a health condition. If your blood pressure is high or the doctor says your obesity has reached dangerous levels, you might qualify. Even then, unless the doctor specifically recommended you use a home exercise machine, the IRS may roll its eyes at your write-off.
If the doctor does prescribe using exercise equipment to treat your obesity, or as physical therapy after an accident, you have a shot at a write-off. However you still don't get the tax cut unless you itemize -- and unless you have substantial medical bills. To figure your write-off you add all your qualifying expenses together and then subtract 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. The remainder is deductible -- everything under 10 percent of your AGI is non-deductible.
If you work in the elite world of pro athletics, the odds are better. Athletes, by the nature of their job, have to stay in shape, so exercise and fitness equipment are a valid business expense. Weight machines, elliptical trainers, wrist weights and jogging shoes are all deductible if they help you stay fit for the next game. In this case, you'd write off your elliptical as a business expense on Schedule C.
The IRS specifically disallows exercise classes or health-club membership as a business expense just for the sake of looking good. This remains true even if looking good is part of your profession. Actors and models need to appear attractive, for instance, but the IRS still treats them buying exercise equipment or going to the gym as a personal expense. If an actor's role made it absolutely necessary she get buff, that may qualify as an exception.
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.