When you can and can’t take deductions

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Q. My wife and I have been driving our son to the doctors for radiation treatment for his cancer. He does not live with us and is on his own but he needed someone to take him for his treatment. Can I take the expenses like mileage and tolls as a deduction?
— Dad

A. We hope your son is getting healthy.

Here’s the lowdown on taking such expenses as deductions.

Generally, you can only include medical expenses for yourself, your spouse or your dependents in your itemized deductions, said Cynthia Aiken, a certified financial planner with RegentAtlantic in Morristown.

You mentioned that your son “does not live with you and is on his own.” Aiken said this sounds like he is not your dependent.

So what is a dependent?

A dependent is a qualifying child or qualifying relative.

Generally, Aiken said, your son will be a qualifying child if he is: under age 19 at the end of 2016, under age 24 at the end of 2016 and a full-time student, any age and permanently and totally disabled, lived with you for more than half of 2016, didn’t provide over half of his own support in 2016 or didn’t file a joint return, other than to claim a refund.

To be your qualifying relative, you must have provided over half of his financial support, she said.

Alternatively, she said, you could still include the transportation costs in your medical expenses as an itemized deduction if your son would have been a dependent except that: 1) He had gross income of $4,050 or more in 2016, 2) He filed a joint return for 2016, or 3) You, or your spouse if filing jointly, could be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s 2016 return.

“If you have confirmed that he is a dependent or the alternative scenario applies, then the amounts paid for transportation to medical care can be included in your itemized deductions as medical expenses,” she said. “Specifically, transportation expenses include mileage, parking fees and tolls.”

If you don’t want to use your actual expenses, you can use the standard medical mileage rate of 19 cents per mile, Aiken said.

For a more conclusive answer, you’ll first need to determine if he is your dependent. Please refer to IRS Publication 502 or consult a tax professional to determine his dependency status.

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NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.