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Tax-Deductible Status Sought
for Weight-Control Costs.

IUnternal Revenue Service Revenue Ruling 99-28 allows taxpayers a medical deduction and approves the use of medical savings accounts for smoking cessation programs and medicines. Organizations concerned about weight-control are seeking to achieve the same status for weight-loss programs. In September 1999, the American Obesity Association and ten other groups petitioned the IRS to permit the cost of weight-loss treatment (surgery, drug therapy, behavioral counseling, and weight-control programs) to be tax-deductible. The agency responded that such a ruling would require evidence that either that obesity itself is a disease or that weight loss by an obese person prevents the onset of disease. The Association submitted substantiating information to the IRS on March 17, 2000 [1] and has been mobilizing its members to send similar messages to Congress [2].

Weight Watchers International is also mobilizing its members. Noting that some 97 million Americans (about half the adult U.S. population) is overweight or clinically obese, the organization states that including weight-loss services in the IRS code would be a step toward addressing obesity as a national health crisis [3].


  1. Downey M. Letter to Donna M. Crisalli, Internal Revenue Service, March 17, 2000.
  2. The facts about . . . obesity as a medical deduction. American Obesity Association Web site, accessed 4/23/00.
  3. Weight Watchers International. Dieters seek the same tax break offered to concerned smokers. News release, February 2000.

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This article was posted on 4/23/00.