The IRS says you can't write off personal travel. Traveling because your parent died, whether in-country or overseas, isn't a pleasure trip, but it is personal. As a result, there's no write-off. There are exceptions, but in most cases, there's no tax break for the trip, whether it's to attend the funeral or to bring your parent's body home.
If your parent picked you as her executor, traveling to sort out her affairs may be necessary. Fortunately, you don't have to eat the cost. As her executor, you're entitled to have the estate reimburse you for your out-of-pocket expenses, including travel. The estate, which has to file its own income-tax return, can then write your expenses off as a deduction. The less the estate pays in tax, the more there is for the beneficiaries.
Business Travel Overseas
The IRS recognizes business travel as a legitimate tax deduction. If you can combine a business trip with attending a funeral, you can write off some of your costs, such as air fare overseas. However, costs specifically tied to the personal part of your trip, such as lodging while you wait to hear the will, are not. If you have to go overseas, the IRS may scrutinize your trip very closely, as the foreign-travel business deduction is easily abused.
If you claimed your parent as a dependent, you can deduct some of the medical bills you paid for him. For example, if you paid for his last hospital stay or for his prescription painkillers, those costs are deductible. If you travel with him to get medical care, you can take off $50 a night for each of you to cover lodging. If the trip is merely to improve his mood or take his mind off his illness, the IRS doesn't count that as medical.
Claiming the Write-Off
If you're the executor, you report any deductions for your travel on the estate's tax return, which you submit on IRS Form 1041. You write off business travel on Schedule C for a sole proprietor, though other business structures use different tax forms. You itemize medical expenses on Schedule A. Add up all of your family's deductible expenses and subtract 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Whatever remains is the medical write-off.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.