Of course, nobody likes it when they or a family member is ill and needs medical attention. To make matters worse, health care costs are usually high. To help defray some of those costs, you may be able to take a deduction for some of your medical expenses.

How Much & What Can You Deduct?

You can take the deduction only if your total medical care expenses for the year are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. Use Schedule A on your Form 1040 to figure out if you have enough expenses to take the deduction.

For tax purposes, medical expenses include many things, including travel and transportation costs, as well as some of the costs of lodging and meals.

Necessary Transportation Costs

Transportation and travel costs are generally deductible if they're needed to reach a medical treatment facility. If you use your car, you can deduct actual out-of-pocket expenses, such as gas and oil.

If you don't want to bother figuring out your actual expenses, you can deduct the standard mileage rate. For 2010, the standard medical mileage rate is 16.5 cents per mile. For 2011, the rate increases to 19 cents per mile.

Transportation costs you can deduct include:

  • Parking and toll fees
  • Bus, taxi, train or plane fares
  • Ambulance service fees
  • Your expenses for accompanying your child while getting medical care 
  • The costs of a nurse or technician who can give injections, medications or other treatment needed by you or family member while traveling to get medical care
  • The costs of visiting a mentally ill dependent, if the visits are recommended as a part of treatment

Unnecessary Transportation Costs

Transportation costs incurred by choice and not by necessity aren't deductible. For example, if you decide to travel to a distant location for an operation that could easily be performed in your area, the transportation costs aren't deductible.

Also, you can't deduct expenses such as:

  • Going to and from work, even if your condition requires an unusual means of transportation
  • Travel that's just for the general improvement of your health or morale, even if it's recommended by your doctor 
  • The costs of operating a specially equipped car for other than medical reasons

Cost of Meals

You can include the cost of meals at a hospital or similar facility if a main reason for being there is to get medical care. You can't include in medical expenses the cost of meals that aren't part of inpatient care.

Cost of Lodging

Lodging costs are deductible if the costs arise while going to or coming home from a place of necessary medical treatment. The amount you may include in medical expenses for lodging can't be more than $50 for each night for each person.

Several requirements must be met in order to deduct lodging costs:

  • The lodging is primarily for and essential to medical care
  • The medical care is provided by a doctor in a licensed hospital or in a medical care facility
  • The lodging isn't extravagant
  • There's no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel away from home

You can include lodging for a person traveling with the person receiving the medical care. For example, if a parent travels with a sick child. Up to $100 per night can be included as a medical expense for lodging. Meals aren't included.

If you have medical expenses, taking the deduction can have a big impact on your tax bill. The IRS has instructions and worksheets to help you.

If you have any questions while preparing your return, talk to a professional tax preparer or a tax lawyer before you file.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Is there a limit or cap on the amount of medical expenses I can deduct?
  • Can I use or carryover to next year any medical expenses I can't deduct on this year's return?
  • Are travel and lodging expenses deductible if I travel to see a certain specialist if there are doctors practicing the same specialty in my city?

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