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How the self-employed can deduct health insurance costs

The self-employed health insurance deduction can ensure you’re covered while leading to significant tax savings.

Is health insurance tax deductible for self-employed?

Yes, there is a self-employed health insurance deduction. It’s often a valuable write-off but many small business owners aren’t aware of what they can deduct.

What health expenses can I deduct on taxes?

With the self-employed health insurance deduction, you can write-off:

  • Health insurance premiums for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Includes dental care and long-term care coverage
  • Insurance plans that cover children up to 26 years old, whether they’re dependents or not

Can I deduct health insurance for my spouse and kids?

Yes. The self-employed health insurance deduction applies to health insurance premiums for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. This includes dental and long-term care coverage. This insurance can also cover your children up to age 27 (26 or younger as of the end of a tax year), whether they are your dependents or not.

Sole proprietors, partners in partnerships, LLC members, and S corporation shareholders who own more than 2 percent of the company stock can use this deduction. This applies if you bought the health insurance policy as an individual or have your business get it for you.

Self-employed health insurance deduction example

Kim is a sole proprietor who pays $10,000 each year for health insurance. Her business earns approximately $50,000 in profit each year. She may deduct her $10,000 annual health insurance expense from her gross income for federal and state income tax purposes.

Since her combined federal and state income tax rate is 30%, this saves her $3,000 in income taxes each year. Kim may not deduct her premiums from her income when she figures her self-employment taxes.

The self-employed health insurance deduction does have a significant limitation, though. You may deduct only as much as you earn from your business. If your business earns no money or incurs a loss, you get no deduction.

If you have more than one business, you can’t combine the income from all your businesses for purposes of the income limit. You may only use the income from a single business you choose to be the health insurance plan sponsor.

You can’t take this deduction if 
you are eligible to take part in a subsidized health insurance plan. This is often offered and maintained by your employer or your spouse’s employer. This is so even if the plan requires copayments, or you have to pay extra premiums to get all the coverage you need.

Is health insurance a business expense for self-employed?

You can deduct health insurance costs as a deductible business expense if your business pays them for employees. This doesn’t apply if you’re the employee in your own business.

That applies to a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, an LLC member, or an S corporation shareholder with more than 2% of the company stock. So, you can’t have your business provide you with health insurance and deduct the cost as a business expense.

Yet, there is a way around this limitation. You can hire your spouse as your employee and provide them with health insurance for the family.

The insurance should be purchased in the name of the spouse/employee, not in the employer’s name. The policy can cover your spouse, you, your children, and other dependents as well.

The insurance can cover your children up to age 27 (26 or younger as of the end of a year), whether they are your dependents or not. Then you can deduct the cost of health insurance as a business expense.

Deducting health insurance your business provides you as a business expense

Joe, a successful financial consultant, hires his wife, Martha, to work as his employee assistant. He pays her $25,000 per year and provides her with a health insurance policy. This covers both of them and their two children. The annual policy premiums are $10,000.

Joe may deduct the $10,000 as a business expense for his consulting practice. He may deduct the 10,000 not only from his $100,000 income for income tax purposes but also from his self-employment income as well. He saves $4,500 in federal and state taxes by taking this deduction.

If you do this and you’re self-employed, do not take the health insurance deduction for self-employed people. You’re better
 off deducting all your health insurance premiums as a business expense.

Business or personal deduction?

A business deduction reduces the amount of your income subject to self-employment taxes. The self-employed health insurance deduction is a personal deduction. This means it doesn’t reduce your business income for self-employment tax purposes.

There are a couple of catches to this deduction. This method ordinarily doesn’t work if you have an S corporation because your spouse is deemed to be a shareholder of the corporation along with you and can’t also be a corporate employee.

Also, your spouse must be a bona fide employee. They must do real work in your business, you must pay applicable payroll taxes, and you must treat your spouse like any other employee. You must also pay your spouse reasonable compensation.

Of course, if you’re single, you won’t be able to hire a spouse to take advantage of this method. Yet, a single parent could hire their child and deduct the cost of your child’s health insurance as a business expense. But your child’s policy cannot cover you or other family members.

About the author

Stephen Fishman

Stephen Fishman is a self-employed tax expert who has dedicated his career as an attorney and author to writing useful, authoritative and recognized guides on taxes and business law for entrepreneurs, independent contractors, freelancers and other self-employed people.

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The Growth Center does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.