It is true that many riders of buses and commuter trains are frustrated by the crowds, noise and waiting associated with using public transportation. Not everyone treats these conveyances with respect, either, leaving litter and other debris aboard. Some even vandalize them.
All in all, however, mass transit is an affordable way to get from place to place within large metropolitan areas, saving users on gasoline, auto insurance, tolls and maintenance. Still, daily use of public transit can add up financially and patrons ask legitimately if some sort of tax deduction can be claimed against train tickets and bus fare.
How Much Does Public Transportation Cost?
While commuters generally save when opting for public transportation over automobiles, major metropolitan regions do impose relatively heavy fares on riders. With 56.5 percent of residents using public transportation, New York City has the highest transit ridership in the U.S, with Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River, running a close second at 47.6 percent. Washington, D.C. has a healthy number of its people choosing its Metro trains and buses: 37.4 percent.
In New York, riders ordinarily pay $2.75 per trip on a subway or local bus while their New Jersey neighbors could pay $4.25 for a one-way trip into Manhattan or, alternatively, $126 for a monthly pass. Meanwhile, a Metro passenger from Shady Grove, Maryland, heading into the District of Columbia could fork over $6 for a one-way commute.
Transportation and Work
Commuting to and from the office does not, regrettably, qualify as a public transportation tax deduction. Those who drive their own cars are similarly unable to write off gasoline use and auto depreciation with each trip. The good news is that this is not the end of the story.
Certain travel expenses are definitely eligible for deduction. For example, if you're self-employed and travel is necessary to conduct business, then this is usually deductible. However, employees usually can't get a deduction anymore for reimbursed travel expenses.
Transportation and Health Care
Getting to the doctor or hospital for medically necessary procedures should never be inhibited by the government, especially by means of taxation. Can you claim bus tickets on your income tax? You can, indeed. In fact, whether by bus, train or taxi, transportation is a legitimate medical expense per the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
It must be noted, however, that there is a cap on medical deductions of 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Furthermore, any insurance contributions toward transport expenses are calculated against any deduction claimed in a federal tax filing.
How to Claim a Deduction
Qualified public transportation expenditures are itemized deductions on Form 1040. Should you wish to claim a transit income tax deduction as a self-employed person, you'll report these on your Schedule C and eventually have your final business income transferred to your Form 1040. As far as medical deductions go, these are calculated on Schedule A and transferred to the itemized deductions.
Important to remember is that the IRS defines any travel in terms of your "tax home," i.e. that area or region where your principal place of business is located. This is separate and distinct from your residence. An experienced tax professional is worth consulting with any pertinent questions about claiming transportation expenses on taxes.
Adam Luehrs is a writer during the day and a voracious reader at night. He focuses mostly on finance writing and has a passion for real estate, credit card deals, and investing.