Optical expenses can have you seeing a lot of red in your budget. However, you might be able to deduct some of these costs on your federal income taxes if you keep track of the costs. Knowing what expenses you can include and how the deduction is figured can help you time your costs to maximize your tax savings.
Qualified Optical Expenses
Optical expenses that are medically necessary qualify for the medical expenses deduction. These costs can include routine checkups, treatments, preventative care and vision insurance premiums you pay out of pocket. Examples of optical expenses include glasses, contact lenses and saline solution, and laser surgery to correct your vision. You can also deduct the mileage you drive to get optical treatment. As of 2012, the standard rate from the Internal Revenue Service is 23 cents per mile.
Just because you've got eye expenses doesn't mean you get a deduction. Only qualified optical expenses that exceed the adjusted gross income threshold can be deducted. As of 2012, this threshold is 7.5 percent of your AGI, but in 2013 it jumps to 10 percent. Also, you have to itemize your deductions. IRS Schedule A has lines for you to write in your deduction.
Scope and Timing
The deduction for optical expenses includes not only your optical expenses but also those of your spouse and your dependents. For example, if your young child wears glasses, you can include those costs along with your own. However, you're limited to claiming the expenses in the year you pay for them, even if you received the services in a different year. For example, if you paid for laser eye surgery in December 2013 but didn't have the operation until January 2014, you claim the expense on your 2013 return.
Your optical expenses are just one part of the medical expenses deduction, so even if your eye care costs alone aren't enough to get over the threshold, you might still qualify for a tax benefit if you have other medical or dental expenses that qualify. For example, in 2013, if your AGI is $63,000 and you have $6,000 in laser eye surgery costs and $3,000 in medical bills, you could deduct $2,700 because you paid $9,000 in qualifying expenses.
Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."