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Medical deduction

Question: Last year, I had an FSA, and was reimbursed for all sorts of medical expenses - contact lens solution, cough syrup, condoms - without a prescription. Without an FSA this year, can I deduct those expenses just like doctor bills? (i.e., if they total 7.5% of my income.) I also paid COBRA for 9 months. Is any part of that premium deductible? Sarah, Gray, ME

Answer: A Flexible Savings Account or FSA makes it easy to pay for all kinds of medical expenses. The risk is if you don't use all the money within a year you lose it.

Now, when it comes to medical expenses and the tax code the bar is high before deductions kick in. My main advice is check with a tax professional. But from the way you phrased your question the answer may be yes.

To take advantage of the medical deduction you need to itemize. Other common itemized deductions include the interest on home mortgages and charitable contributions. Your itemized deductions should be greater than the standard deduction.

Your COBRA payments are deductible, but many people find it hard to actually take the deduction. The reason is that total medical expenses, including premiums, co-pays, deductibles, medication and the like must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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