If you're ever been alone and needed medical treatment, then you know the concerns about being unable to get help. The last thing that should be on your mind is how you'll get there, much less how you'll pay for it.
Regardless of your situation, it's a good idea to plan for the possibility of a medical need, and how you plan to get to and from these treatments. And we're not just talking about medical emergencies. As long as you're traveling to a doctor's office, hospital or other medical facility for necessary treatments, your transportation costs might be FSA-eligible.
As with most FSA-eligible purchases, there are some specific rules. Here's everything you need to know about FSA-eligible transportation expenses.
Rideshare apps, buses and more
Unlike some purchases (hello, sunscreen!) you can't use your FSA debit card to pay for your transportation expenses. Instead, you have to submit a claim for reimbursement to your FSA administrator.
Many expenses related to common modes of transportation—Uber, Lyft, planes, cars, ferries, taxis, rental cars, buses and more—can be FSA-eligible. But that doesn't mean you can charter a private jet next time you need to visit your doctor.
In general, your mode of transportation should be reasonable for the medical care you are receiving. If you're home alone and very ill, then a rideshare app, like Uber or Lyft, is probably the best option, especially late at night.
Do it yourself
One of the most common FSA-eligible forms of transportation is driving a personal car. When it comes to driving your own car and using your FSA to pay for it, there are few things you'll want to keep in mind.
The medical care you're travelling for must be FSA-eligible. (Driving to a spa day with your friends doesn't count.)
You can be reimbursed for eligible tolls, fees and gas OR submit for reimbursement of the allowed mileage deduction of 18 cents per mile.
You could also claim a mileage deduction for medical purposes, but not if you've already received FSA reimbursement for it. This is a tax write-off that you claim on your annual tax forms and is different from a reimbursement claim.
What isn't eligible
Unfortunately, your FSA isn't going to cover your daily commute and regular driving. Automobile depreciation, insurance, repairs and traffic tickets -- even if they happen on the way to appointments -- all come out of pocket. Also, any travel that is done for personal reasons (even if it includes a doctor visit in another city) isn't eligible.
Staying on top of your transportation expenses ensures you're filing for all necessary reimbursements. This helps to prove FSA eligibility if asked to do so by your company, or the IRS.
The best way to keep track of your receipts and expenses is to create a separate file for all FSA-eligible transportation expenses. This can be a digital file on your laptop or a physical file that you store in your home. The most important part of the process is you -- the system only works if you use it.
I bet you're probably thinking back to every time you've sat in traffic on the way to a doctor. Well, you can rest easy knowing that travel for future medical visits can be covered with your tax-free funds.
Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.