OFF THE NOTEBOOK: Organizing Your Medical Expenses

Mon, 04/07/2014
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"Off the Notebook" Columnist

One of the most frustrating things that I have to do every year is work on my taxes.

It seems like the medical expenses never end and it is stressful just having to relive them with the bills and other paperwork.

I know that I'm not alone, which is why I wrote this column to help others dealing with the same frustration.

April 15 is the deadline to file your taxes in the United States. Even if someone else does your taxes, you still need to produce information. If the IRS then asks questions, you can show them how you came up with those figures.

Taxpayers have the option of choosing to use the standard deduction or the itemized deduction. You obviously want to choose the larger amount and most Chiarians (like me) will have a higher itemized deduction, which is why organizing your medical expenses is so important.

Below are some helpful tips to make this process easier:

1. Pay by check. While you're not going to write a check to pay for lunch at the hospital cafeteria (though make sure to get a receipt), just about everything else can be paid by check. It also makes recordkeeping, with both the date and the amount of payment, much easier.

2. Include your appointment on a planner and/or calendar. There are many things written on each page of my planner, but I naturally include all of my medical-related appointments. In fact, they are easy to find because my highlighter "highlights" the appointment time slot and then I write the appointment over it. 

If you live with family, etc., also write the appointment down on the calendar in the kitchen or other indoor high-traffic area.

Another reason to record your appointments is so you can calculate the mileage (if you drive to them) for your taxes. The standard mileage rate for medical reasons is 24 cents a mile. 

For example, if your neurology appointment is five miles away then you put down 10 miles because you are calculating round-trip mileage. If you need help determining how far you live from a medical appointment, use MapQuest (CLICK HERE) for assistance.

3. Put your Medical Expenses in a manila folder. Organized by year, the folder should include insurance premiums, as well as fees paid to doctors and medical facilities. Also, include payments for MRIs and/or other radiology-related tests, lab tests, co-payments, pharmacy, medical supplies and equipment, etc. 

Remember to save the medical-related expenses for transportation, lodging, etc. This includes such things as parking and/or toll fees, hotel or motel and mileage.

Save all corresponding paperwork and write down the check number, amount paid and the date on each bill.

4. Remember to also get receipts for everything that you pay in cash or credit card. Let's use my 2013 trip to Los Angeles to see my neurosurgeon as an example. I have the receipts for Amtrak, taxis, hotel, restaurant expenses, etc.

If I didn't have the appointment, I wouldn't have been there. This wasn't a vacation.

For MORE Tax Tips, click on the following links:

Six Tips to Make Filing Less Taxing

Key Tax Changes for 2014 and Beyond

Pete Dal Bello is the founder and president of the International Chiari Association (ICA), which is a nonprofit organization. Dal Bello is also an "Off the Notebook" Columnist for the ICA. He has Chiari.

(c) 2014 International Chiari Association (ICA).
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DISCLAIMER: The views of this column do not necessarily reflect those of the International Chiari Association (ICA). This column is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a qualified professional when seeking medical care.

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