Tax Deductions for Celiacs: Worth It?

1918 Liberty Weekly Income Record and Income Tax Record 04Did you know that people with celiac disease are eligible for certain tax write-offs?

It’s true, but before you go getting all excited let’s go over the details. There are definitely people for whom the tax deductions are tangible, helpful, worthwhile — but for most of us, it’s not quite worth it.

The short explanation is that those of us with medically diagnosed reasons for a gluten-free diet are eligible to deduct the difference in cost between our foods and their gluten-full equivalents from our taxes.

Before you go thanking Schedule A, Form 1040, though, let’s take a closer look:

The first step is to obtain a written diagnosis from your doctor. Easy enough, although it’s unclear whether the diagnosis must be celiac disease or whether one for gluten intolerance or sensitivity would suffice.

Second step, save all your receipts. Less easy. Every single time you purchase a gluten-free item, you need to keep the receipt. But what even qualifies?

Any item that has a gluten-full equivalent counts (for example, cookies). You don’t get to deduct the full cost of the gluten-free cookies, only the difference between them and the gluten-full equivalent. Save those receipts, but also give yourself a minute to figure out the difference in price.

Any item that you only purchase because you need it for gluten-free eating (eg xanthum gum) is fully deductible.

Every time you drive to a specialty store to purchase gluten-free foods, you need to keep track of your mileage and any parking costs. Every time you order gluten-free foods by mail, you need to keep track of the delivery costs. Every. Single. Time.

According to the Gluten Free Bulletin, the cost of your medical education is also deductible, to some extent. So if you attend conferences or seminars, keep track of those too.

Obviously you’ll want to keep track of these receipts somewhere other than a shoebox. A spreadsheet seems most logical, but I suppose you could use pen and paper if you really wanted. The key is to keep them and keep track — no one wants to get audited.

When it comes time to submit, you’ll first need to figure out if you qualify. Only once the total of these medical expenses exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, can you deduct them (AGI is your income minus deductions). As of 2013, this rises to 10% according to Zinner & Co LLP.

If you qualify, you’ll want to pay a visit to the IRS and download Form 1040 Schedule A, which is for medical deductions. For most of us, though, I suspect that the amount of time it would take to file all of this information as the year goes by is more than the amount of money we would save — if we even qualify. As someone who doesn’t have any dependents and someone who doesn’t eat thousands of dollars of gluten-free items over the course of the year (naturally gluten-free items don’t count), there’s no way I’d get to claim anything. Maybe a family with several gluten-free members would be helped, but otherwise I’m not sure who this rule is really for.

For more info, you can visit the Celiac Disease Foundation or the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Both will point you to additional government resources.

I’m curious: have any of you claimed this exemption? Was it worth it, for the amount of time you had to put in? Have you been audited since?

4 thoughts on “Tax Deductions for Celiacs: Worth It?”

  1. The medical expense deduction includes all medical expenses. So if you were to total up all of the gluten-free food, plus your monthly health insurance premiums and copays, medicines, etc, you might qualify. I know we qualify every year. You are right, though. It may not be worth the time and effort it takes to track all of your food purchases!

  2. I think the money I’m not saving is worth being relieved the hassle of keeping tabs on ALL MY GF EXPENSES. I will survive.

  3. According to the article on Zinner & Co’s website (and other articles by the same author elsewhere), it appears you need one minor correction, “Only once the total of these medical expenses exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, can you deduct them” should read “Only the amount of your medical expenses that excede 7.5% of your AGI can be deducted”.

    For example, if you earn $50,000 and spend $4000 on medical expenses, you can’t deduct the $4,000 but rather only the $250 above your 7.5% threshhold ($3,750). Of course, I’m not an accountant so be sure to check with your own accountant on this.

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