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ATO Interpretative Decision

ATO ID 2001/155 (Withdrawn)

Income Tax
Medical expenses tax offset

Attention This ATO ID is withdrawn. Guidance on the Net Medical Expenses Tax Offset can be found at Medical expenses on the ATO website (QC 31918).
Attention This document has changed over time. View its history.
FOI status: may be released
Status of this decision: Decision withdrawn 11 August 2017.

CautionCAUTION: This is an edited and summarised record of a Tax Office decision. This record is not published as a form of advice. It is being made available for your inspection to meet FOI requirements, because it may be used by an officer in making another decision.

This ATOID provides you with the following level of protection:

If you reasonably apply this decision in good faith to your own circumstances (which are not materially different from those described in the decision), and the decision is later found to be incorrect you will not be liable to pay any penalty or interest. However, you will be required to pay any underpaid tax (or repay any over-claimed credit, grant or benefit), provided the time limits under the law allow it. If you do intend to apply this decision to your own circumstances, you will need to ensure that the relevant provisions referred to in the decision have not been amended or repealed. You may wish to obtain further advice from the Tax Office or from a professional adviser.


Are a mattress replacement system and recline lift chair medical or surgical appliances for the purposes of the medical expenses tax offset (also referred to as a 'rebate') under section 159P of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (ITAA 1936)?


No, the mattress replacement system and recline lift chair are not medical or surgical appliances for the purposes of the medical expenses tax offset under section 159P of the ITAA 1936.


The taxpayer suffers from very poor circulation and limited movement, which are symptoms of a serious medical condition. The taxpayer is hospitalised as a result of complications associated with the medical condition, and during the period of hospitalisation, the taxpayer experiences severe bed sores.

As part of the healing process overseen by the medical practitioner responsible for the taxpayer's treatment, an air flotation mattress is installed in the hospital for the taxpayer's use. The air flotation mattress is designed to prevent bed sores by alleviating pressure and stimulating circulation.

Upon the taxpayer's release from hospital, the medical practitioner responsible for the taxpayer's treatment recommends that the taxpayer purchase an air flotation mattress in order to prevent the bed sores recurring.

The medical practitioner also recommends that the taxpayer obtain an electronic recline lift chair to enable the taxpayer to sit upright.

Reasons For Decision

Subsection 159P(1) of the ITAA 1936 states, inter alia , that an amount paid by a taxpayer in the year of income as medical expenses less any amount paid to the taxpayer in respect of those medical expenses shall be treated as a rebatable amount in respect of that year of income. Paragraph (f) of the definition of medical expenses in subsection 159P(4) of the ITAA 1936 includes payments made in respect of a medical or surgical appliance prescribed by a legally qualified medical practitioner.

Taxation Ruling TR 93/34 explains the meaning of a 'medical or surgical appliance' for the purposes of paragraph (f) of the definition of medical expenses in subsection 159P(4) of the ITAA 1936 as an instrument, apparatus or device which is manufactured as, distributed as or generally recognised to be an aid to the function or capacity of a person with a disability or an illness.

To be an aid to function or capacity, the item must help the person with the illness or disability perform the activities of daily living: paragraph 4 of TR 93/34. The mere fact that an item gives therapeutic treatment, such as relieving, healing or preventing a medical condition, does not make it a 'medical or surgical appliance'.

In this case, the air flotation mattress, which is a mattress replacement system, is clearly used in therapeutic treatment. However, the mattress does not help the taxpayer perform everyday activities as it does not aid the taxpayer's physical movement. Similarly, although the recline lift chair provides comfort and relieves the taxpayer's pain, the chair is not generally recognised as assisting the taxpayer in performing any activities. Accordingly, the mattress replacement system and the recline lift chair are not considered to be aids to function or capacity, and therefore, are not 'medical or surgical appliances' for the purposes of paragraph (f) of the definition of medical expenses in subsection 159P(4) of the ITAA 1936.

Amendment History

Date of amendment Part Comment
22 November 2013 Reasons for Decision Amended for clarity.
  Legislative References Removed reference.
  Related ATO Interpretative Decisions Amended to remove reference to withdrawn ATOID.
  Keywords updated.

Date of decision: 27 March 2001

Legislative References:
Income Tax Assessment Act 1936
   section 159P
   subsection 159P(1)

Related Public Rulings (including Determinations)
TR 93/34

Related ATO Interpretative Decisions
ATO ID 2001/154

Rebates and offsets
Deductions & expenses
Medical expenses
Medical expenses rebates
Medical & surgical appliances

Siebel/TDMS Reference Number: CRS40181(2);1-8E8H49D

Business Line: Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

Date of publication: 1 August 2001

ISSN: 1445-2782

ATO ID 2001/155 (Withdrawn) history   Top  
   Date   Version 
   27 March 2001   Original statement   
   22 November 2013   Updated statement   
 You are here ®  11 August 2017   Withdrawn   


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