If you're starting to think about filing your taxes, make sure you consider the medical tax deductions available to you.

With healthcare costs climbing, you’ve probably noticed that you’re spending a larger chunk of your income on medical expenses. And older Americans and those with health conditions bear a disproportionate share of the cost burden.

You might find some relief through medical tax deductions. But because the rules can be complicated and because they change from one year to the next, there's some general information and advice you should know on where to turn for help. Always check with a professional or the Internal Revenue Service to determine how to proceed.

Get the Right Advice on Tax Deductions

More than 60 percent of Americans hire someone to prepare their taxes. If you're seeking professional tax preparation assistance, Consumer Reports offers advice on finding the best tax-preparation help for you. The IRS also offers a tax guide specifically for seniors, which includes information on free tax-prep services. (If you're going the DIY route, check our tax-preparation software review: H&R Block Deluxe vs. TurboTax Deluxe.)

Itemizing and Tax Deductions

The standard federal tax deduction is generally $6,300 if you’re single (or married and filing separate returns) and $12,600 if you’re married and filing jointly. For those age 65 or older, it’s $7,850 and $13,850, respectively. The standard deductions are a bit higher if both spouses are 65 or older. But if you had high medical and dental expenses, you might do better by itemizing.

How to decide? Be aware that you can deduct medical expenses on your taxes only if you itemize. And for most people, only the expenses that are higher than 10 percent of their adjusted gross income are deductible. (The AGI is your income minus deductions like alimony and student loans.)

But if you’re 65 or older, you don't have to meet that 10 percent minimum. Instead, you can take a tax deduction on expenses that are over 7.5 percent of your AGI.

Consider Caregiving Costs

Rules are especially complicated for caregiving deductions, so check the ins and outs carefully with a professional. For example, you may be able to deduct part of what you paid someone to care for a dependent household member. But the care must have been necessary so that you or your spouse could work or look for work. 

Plan Ahead for Next Year to Maximize Deductions

If you expect some big medical expenses ahead, being deliberate about when you pay for them may help you get to the percentage you need for deducting those costs. Taxpayers can "bunch" medical deductions into one year to maximize the deductions, says Martin M. Shenkman, an attorney and certified public accountant specializing in tax planning in Fort Lee, N.J., and New York City. For example, if you've had a lot of needed—and expensive—medical care in a given year, consider buying an extra pair of prescription glasses if you need them, or stocking up on products like blood glucose test strips, or making sure that you schedule (or pay for) a series of planned dental treatments in the same calendar year.  

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the March 2016 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.