Putting in a claim for your medical expenses can be tricky when filing your tax returns.
I’d like to know if one can claim for medical expenses:
1. If medical aid doesn’t cover for the expenses paid; and
2. What if medical aid is exhausted and I pay out of my pocket, can I claim for that as well?
Piet Nel from the SA Institute of Tax Professionals responds:
The issue is whether or not it is qualifying medical expenses as defined in section 6B for purposes of the medical rebate.
We accept that, if the individual was a member of a medical scheme, it may not have been covered in full. This may be because this is something which is elective and not usually covered by the medical schemes or because it exceeded the value of the amount covered by the scheme.
It may also not qualify as a “relevant health service” in terms of the definition in the Medical Schemes Act, 1998. The Income Tax Act, however, doesn’t refer to this.
The section 6B(1)(a)(i) requirement is that it must be “amounts … paid by the person … to any duly registered medical practitioner, dentist, optometrist, homeopath, naturopath, osteopath, herbalist, physiotherapist, chiropractor or orthopedist for professional services rendered or medicines supplied to the taxpayer…”
The subsection doesn’t, as with nursing or a nurse (in item (ii)), refer to illness or confinement. The item (i) expenses are also not further qualified as is for instance expenses in consequence of any physical impairment or disability suffered by the taxpayer – there the expenses must be prescribed by SARS.
The only requirements then seem to be that it is paid to a duly registered person (mentioned in the section) and that it must be for professional services rendered.
We submit that duly registered refers to registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa – see SARS’s guide on the determination of medical tax credits and allowances.
No guidance is given on the meaning of professional services rendered and the phrase must take its ordinary meaning. The Health Professions Act, 1974, refers to a person practicing “any health profession the practice of which mainly consists of –
(i) the physical or mental examination of persons;
(ii) the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of physical or mental defects, illnesses or deficiencies in man humankind;
(iii) the giving of advice in regard to such defects, illnesses or deficiencies; or
(iv) the prescribing or providing of medicine in connection with such defects, illnesses or deficiencies…”
Remember that the taxpayer would bear the onus of proof if the claim is disputed (it could well be that SARS’s view may be that it is not qualifying medical expenses).
It is advisable to obtain a tax opinion or guidance from SARS if you have a doubt that the expenditure falls within the requirements explained above.