According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, if you're between the ages of 35 and 54, you probably drive more than 15,000 miles a year. That can add up to a fair amount of time behind the wheel, but claiming a tax break for some of the miles might make them a little more enjoyable. As of 2013, the Internal Revenue Service lets you shave 24 cents per mile off your taxable income for driving related to medical care.
Just as with most tax deductions, there are a few conditions to claiming a mileage deduction for trips to see your doctor. You have to itemize; you can't take the standard deduction. This means completing and submitting Schedule A with your return. The good news is that Schedule A includes a lot of other deductible expenses, such as home mortgage interest and gifts to charities, and this could make itemizing worth your while. The downside is that itemizing limits you to filing a 1040, not a 1040A or 1040EZ, assuming you're otherwise qualified to use one of these simpler tax forms.
Medical Expenses Deduction
Mileage deductions for doctor visits fall under medical and dental expenses, and this category covers a lot of ground. Deductible expenses include health insurance premiums – at least the portion not paid by your employer – as well as uncovered and unreimbursed costs for "diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention," according to the IRS. Unfortunately, this category is subject to an adjusted gross income limitation. All your medical and dental expenses together must exceed 10 percent of your AGI as of 2013, unless you're 65 or older. If you are, the threshold is 7.5 percent. You can deduct the balance of your expenses and mileage over the applicable AGI limit. For example, if all your medical expenses, including mileage, come out to $15,000 for the year, and if your AGI is $140,000 and you're under 65, you can claim a $1,000 deduction.
If you're going to deduct mileage for trips to your doctor, you can make the calculation much easier if you don't stop and do personal errands on your way. You must keep accurate records of exactly which miles relate to your medical condition or health care. If you swing by the dry cleaner after your doctor's visit, you must subtract these miles from your overall trip. Mileage isn't limited to trips to your doctor. You can include visits to diagnostic centers, therapy, or even to pick up a prescription.
If your vehicle is a gas guzzler, you might be better off deducting a portion of the actual expenses you incur operating it, rather than taking 24 cents a mile. This option allows you to add up the costs of gas, oil, maintenance, insurance and depreciation of your vehicle, then claim a deduction for a percentage of the total equal to the amount of time you drove for medical reasons. For example, if you drove 15,000 miles all year, and if 3,000 of them related to your medical care, you can claim 20 percent of the overall cost of keeping your car on the road. Whichever option you choose, you can also add in parking fees and tolls.
- IRS: Medical and Dental Expenses
- Maloney & Novotny: Tougher New Rule for Medical Expense Deductions Starts This Year
- Bankrate.com: Standard Mileage Rate vs. Actual Expenses
- U.S. Department of Transportation: Average Annual Miles per Driver by Age Group
- Liberty Tax Service: IRS Mileage Rate
- IRS: Schedule A – Itemized Deductions (PDF)
- IRS: Which Form – 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She specializes in personal finance and w, bankruptcy, and she writes as the tax expert for The Balance.