Tax relief for costly fertility treatment

SASKIA Williams and her husband are infertile.

They faced a six-year battle trying to conceive, underwent three in vitro fertilisation treatments during that time, and were dealt the ultimate blow when she miscarried their daughter.

She refers to herself as the "one in four" that suffer from infertility, often with little support, socially and financially.

Infertility is, according to medicalexperts, the world's fourth biggest medical condition.

To ease the strain of ballooning medical bills from fertility treatment, basic tax planning was important, Greg Smith, a tax consultant speaking at the Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa's seminar on Saturday, said.

Smith was addressing the seminar in his personal capacity.

The seminar was used to, among other things, advise Johannesburg's infertile community on tax claims.

With the exception of the Chartered Accountants Medical Aid Fund, there is no medical scheme cover for fertility treatments in South Africa. This can be financially devastating but there is some relief for taxpayers who may claim returns for medical scheme fees and additional medical expenses.

The first tax break that may help fertility patients is the medical scheme fees tax credit.

It is available to taxpayers under the age of 65 who make a monthly contribution to a medical scheme at a fixed amount in respect of themselves and dependents.

Smith said: "It is important to note that the person entitled to the credit is the person who pays the medical aid contribution, and not necessarily the main member."

The second tax break that could substantially assist those with large fertility treatment bills was the additional medical expenses tax credit.

This credit was available to taxpayers who paid any duly registered medical expenses, even if the treatment paid for was optional, Smith said.

To take advantage of this tax credit, taxpayers should declare all medical aid contributions made during the tax year and all qualifying medical expenses paid that were not recoverable from medical insurance.

Smith said that the lower the taxable income, the higher the credit.

To take advantage of this, couples claiming for fertility treatment should ensure that only one person, preferably the partner with the lower taxable income, made all the fertility payments.

Smith said the tax credit fertility patients were entitled to amounted to just a fraction of the high bills the treatments brought, but every saving helped.

Dr Lawrence Gobetz, a fertility expert, said the government and medical scheme sector should be doing more to assist the infertile community financially. - Roxanne Henderson