When Congress raises the hood on the tax code, they’re usually working to raise money to pay for government. But sometimes they’re more interested in nudging us to behave in ways they can’t legislate directly. Take the mortgage interest deduction, for example, which “cost” the Treasury $69.7 billion in 2013. That deduction encourages millions of Americans to spend billions of dollars buying homes, building homes, renovating money pits, and keeping their homes looking spiffy — all of which returns billions more through our overall economy.
Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee passed another one of those “we-know-we-can’t-make-you-do-this-but-we-can-still-give-you-a-tax-break-for-it” laws. The Personal Health Investment Today (“PHIT”) Act would let you take medical deductions for general fitness expenses: gym memberships, exercise classes and personal trainers, sports and fitness equipment, and even pay-to-play school sports fees and race registration fees. (That’s right, your local Thanksgiving “Turkey Trot” 10k will be deductible!) The bill caps the new deduction at $500 for individuals and $1,000 for joint filers.Continue reading →