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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams
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    Are You Due For a Gluten-free Tax Break?

    Celiac.com 03/21/2014 - According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, the burden of celiac disease can cost an extra $1,000 to $2,500 per year. However, many people who eat gluten-free diets as treatment for celiac disease or other medical conditions are eligible for tax breaks.

    Image: Wikimedia Commons.Those who do eat gluten-free due to medical conditions will be happy to learn that both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Agency list gluten-free food as an eligible medical expense. That means that filers may be eligible for tax relief for gluten-free-related food expenses.

    For example, according to the Canada Revenue Agency website, celiac disease suffers are "entitled to claim the incremental costs associated with the purchase of gluten-free products as a medical expense." That means Canadians with celiac disease can claim the difference between the cost of their gluten-free food and the cost of comparable regular food. However, there are a few hoops to jump through. To claim the credit, Canadian taxpayers need a doctor's letter confirming celiac disease; a receipt for every item claimed; and a summary for each item calculating the cost differential for gluten-free products.

    U.S. residents can deduct the extra cost for gluten-free foods and goods purchased to meet celiac dietary needs. Shipping and delivery costs for those gluten-free products can also be deducted. Also, for any special trip to purchase gluten-free foods, the cost of transportation to and from the store is deductible, including mileage, tolls and parking fees. The vehicle deduction for trips during 2013 is 24 cents per mile.

    To claim these deductions, taxpayers first need an official, written celiac diagnosis from a doctor. A copy of this diagnosis must be submitted with other completed tax forms.

    Taxpayers will then complete form 1040 schedule A for medical deductions. For reference taxpayers may cite: IRS Publication 502; Revenue Rulings: 55-261, 76-80, 2002-19 and 67 TC 481; Cohen 38 TC 387; Flemming TC MEMO 1980 583; and Van Kalb TC MEMO 1978 366

    This must be supported with copies of receipts for all gluten-free purchases, along with lists of prices for gluten-free food and regular counterparts being claimed.

    The difference between those prices is tax-deductible. For example, if a pound of wheat flour costs $0.60 and a pound of rice flour costs $3.40, then you may deduct $2.80 for each pound of rice flour you are claiming for that tax year.

    Remember, some specialty products like xanthan gum and sorghum flour are fully tax-deductible as they have no "regular" counterpart but are purchased to meet your dietary needs.

    Of course, for specific advice, contact an accountant.

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    Excellent news and information about saving money on taxes. Everyone knows it's more expensive to eat gluten free, glad to see the government recognizes too!

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    I think you need to itemize, or met a 7 or 10% of income medical expense amount to deduct? More detail on that would be good. The paperwork seems too much for busy people. A small credit or standard deduction with a celiac diagnosis would be more helpful. But it is something, and we know how expensive gluten-free foods can be.

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    In the U.S., one must itemize and medical expenses have to be 7% to 10% (I can't recall the percentage now) of the person's gross income...thanks for noting that, Sharon. That's a lot of paperwork and receipt saving! I'm with Sharon that a standard deduction for celiacs or tax break would be more reasonable.

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    I think you need to itemize, or met a 7 or 10% of income medical expense amount to deduct? More detail on that would be good. The paperwork seems too much for busy people. A small credit or standard deduction with a celiac diagnosis would be more helpful. But it is something, and we know how expensive gluten-free foods can be.

    I have a spread sheet on Excel with each item that I buy. It lists the store cost of the item and below I list the cost of the gluten free item. I have it set up that at the end of the year, it will figure the cost difference. My accountant loves it.

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    I have a spread sheet on Excel with each item that I buy. It lists the store cost of the item and below I list the cost of the gluten free item. I have it set up that at the end of the year, it will figure the cost difference. My accountant loves it.

    Sheila, that is brilliant...I really must take the time to set that up. A few minutes of planning in the beginning will make a huge difference in the amount of time needed at the end of the year to figure everything out! Thank you!

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    I have a spread sheet on Excel with each item that I buy. It lists the store cost of the item and below I list the cost of the gluten free item. I have it set up that at the end of the year, it will figure the cost difference. My accountant loves it.

    I plan on doing this as well. I just find it difficult to calculate when the product sizes are different. For example, a loaf of Udi's bread is about half the size, AND more expensive than a regular loaf of bread. Does that not get accounted for, or is it okay to list the unit cost and size of each item and do the calculations that way?

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    I have a spread sheet on Excel with each item that I buy. It lists the store cost of the item and below I list the cost of the gluten free item. I have it set up that at the end of the year, it will figure the cost difference. My accountant loves it.

    I have Excel on my computer, but don't know how to set up a program and have never used it. I just use Outlook and Word. If you have a sample sheet or list of mainstream products & prices as well as the gluten-free counterparts, I would love to have a copy. I could follow that to set it up with the products I use. I don't think I could get all of those prices without having a panic attack in the store. I could type it all into my computer if I had the items and prices. Do you know if this applies to organic foods as well? I am sensitive to all kinds of chemicals. I am a senior citizen, 7-year breast cancer survivor, 7-years since celiac diagnosis, Hashimotos, and 4 1/2 years with hives and angio edema from unknown causes, probably meds, food additives and chemicals. I desperately need the tax deduction, but the additional stress of compiling all of the comparable prices would probably trigger a hive outbreak, panic attack or both.

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    I have a spread sheet on Excel with each item that I buy. It lists the store cost of the item and below I list the cost of the gluten free item. I have it set up that at the end of the year, it will figure the cost difference. My accountant loves it.

    Would you be willing to share the spreadsheet for those of us who don't understand how? It would help a lot. Thank you for sharing.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, and science. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

  • Related Articles

    Scott Adams
    The following guidelines were received from the Oct. 1993 CSA/USA National Conference in Buffalo, NY:
    1) You can claim only the EXTRA COST of the gluten-free product over what you would pay for the similar item at a grocery store. For example, if wheat flour costs $0.89 per 5 lbs. and rice flour is $3.25 per 5 lbs., the DIFFERENCE of $2.36 is tax deductible. You may also claim mileage expense for the extra trip to the health food store and postal costs on gluten-free products ordered by mail.
    2) The cost of xanthan gum (methylcellulose, etc.) used in gluten-free home baked goods is completely different than anything used in an ordinary recipe, so in the opinion of the IRS, the total cost of this item can be claimed.
    3) Save all cash register tapes, receipts, and canceled checks to substantiate your gluten-free purchases. You will need to prepare a list of grocery store prices to arrive at the differences in costs. You need not submit it with your return, but do retain it.
    4) Attach a letter from your doctor to your tax return. This letter should state that you have Celiac Sprue disease and must adhere to a total gluten-free diet for life.
    5) Under MEDICAL DEDUCTIONS list as Extra cost of a gluten-free diet the total amount of your extra expenses. You do not need to itemize these expenses.
    Suggestions:
    1) You may want to write the Citations (as given below) on your tax return. Always keep a copy of your doctors letter for your own records.
    2) Your IRS office may refer you to Publication 17 and tell you these deductions are not permissible. IRS representatives have ruled otherwise and this is applicable throughout the US Refer them to the following Citations:
    Revenue Ruling 55-261 Cohen 38 TC 387 Revenue Ruling 76-80, 67 TC 481 Flemming TC MEMO 1980 583 Van Kalb TC MEMO 1978 366

    Howard J. Kass, CPA
    This is a good summary of the proper tax treatment for the additional costs of complying with a gluten-free diet, under a doctors direction. Let me offer a couple of points of clarification and amplification.
    Revenue Ruling 76-80 is more on point in that it specifically discusses the deductibility of the additional costs one incurs in purchasing a special form of a product versus the normal cost of the non-special version.
    Additionally, if one has to purchase items that they would not otherwise purchase if not for the underlying medical condition (such as xanthan gum) then the full cost of such items are deductible.
    It is important to point out that one of the requirements for deducting a medical expense is that the expenditure must be incurred to treat or alleviate a specific medical condition. It is necessary, then, to establish to the IRS that such a medical condition exists. This is best done by a letter of verification from your doctor. This requirement obviously places a celiac in the position of having to obtain a medical diagnosis in order to deduct the additional costs of following a gluten-free diet.
    As far as the mechanics of the deduction are concerned, you must first establish the amount of your excess costs associated with the gluten-free diet. This is done by maintaining detailed records of your purchases, as well as maintaining records of comparable normal products, accumulating those costs and subtracting the costs of the normal versions of those products over the tax year in question. The deduction would then be taken as a medical deduction on schedule A of form 1040. To obtain the benefit of the deduction, then, you must first be able to itemize deductions, and you must have enough non-reimbursed medical expenses to exceed the threshold of 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income. The amount by which your aggregate medical expenses, including the additional cost of a gluten-free diet, exceed that threshold amount would be deductible.
    Does anyone have any experiences or rulings on the legality of deducting as a medical expense the costs for attending a CSA/USA seminar?
    IRS publication 502 (Medical and Dental expense handbook) does not give any specific examples for seminars, but they do ok the cost of special schools for medical or physical reasons. I can rationalize the cost of a Celiac seminar as a medical education expense.
    According to Internal Revenue Code Section 213, travel expenses that may be deducted are those primarily for and essential to medical care . . .
    Regulation 1.213-1(e)(1)(i) defines medical care as the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.
    Depending upon how aggressive or conservative one wishes to be, one could interpret this to mean that meetings that educate individuals in the prevention of a disease are expenses incurred in the mitigation or prevention of disease. All of the case law that I saw dealt with travel to warmer climates, not to medical meetings and conventions.
    Some practitioners might be inclined to take a somewhat aggressive approach and play the audit lottery, while advising their clients that there is risk in taking the deduction. Before taking a deduction, however, it is only prudent to consult with your tax advisor.
    Obviously, this discussion only pertains to taxpayers in the United States.
    I understand that this can be quite confusing. My best advice is to contact your tax advisor. I would be willing to answer questions of a general nature. If I dont answer immediately, please be patient. You can E-mail me at: hkass@zinnerco.com.
    I do have the full text of the two Rev. Rulings mentioned above, as well as the two court cases, but the files are large (about 20K each) and I am unsure of what the copyright law allows as far as distributing this information. The materials are copyrighted.
    Hope this helps clarify (rather than confuse) some of the tax issues.

    Howard J. Kass, CPA
    The information posted by Sandra Leonard that she received from the American Celiac Society was factually correct, and is essentially the same information that can be found in my article on Scott Adams Web site (www.celiac.com). I think it is important, though, to say that only a limited number of people are going to actually benefit from compiling all the information required to take the deduction because of the limitations in the Internal Revenue Code for deducting medical expenses.
    In order to take a deduction for medical expenses, the total amount incurred, NET OF INSURANCE REIMBURSEMENTS, must exceed 7.5% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). In other words, if a taxpayer (and spouse, if applicable) had AGI of $80,000, they would have to accumulate over $6,000 of out-of-pocket medical expenses before they would realize any benefit at all.
    In my practice, the only taxpayers who actually deduct medical expenses, because of the above limitations, are those who pay for their own health insurance, and those who had an extraordinary amount of medical expense that their insurance didnt cover. To summarize, the following individuals should consider compiling and deducting the cost of the gluten-free diet: Those who pay for their own health insurance, and those who had large, uninsured medical bills.
    For most everyone else, such an exercise would, most likely, be an exercise in futility.
    I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, e-mail me at: hkass@zinnerco.com
    Howard J. Kass, CPA
    Partner, Zinner & Co. LLP
    29125 Chagrin Blvd.
    Cleveland, OH 44122
    Tel: (216) 831-0733
    Fax: (216) 765-7118

    Scott Adams
    This article appeared in the Autumn 2004 edition of Celiac.coms Scott-Free Newsletter. It originally appeared in the book A Personal Touch On...™ Celiac Disease. ©A Personal Touch Publishing, LLC.
    Celiac.com 10/27/2004 - For at least the last 15 years I have gone to several doctors with a host of various gastrointestinal disorders. The most common diagnosis I received was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Finally, in May of 2003, I found a doctor who was thorough enough to check for Celiac Disease. I have been on the gluten-free diet ever since and feel wonderful!
    When first diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I suppose I was like most people—overwhelmed by the magnitude of the lifestyle change associated with the gluten-free diet. Once reality set in and I began to accept and deal with this new diet, I experienced another overwhelming feeling—the high cost of gluten-free foods! While I was not on a tight budget, the idea of spending four times as much for a loaf of bread that was only half the size was daunting to say the least. I immediately began searching for ways to diminish this extra expense.
    My research took me to the Internet, where I discovered that according to several IRS rulings (Revenue Ruling 55-261; Revenue Ruling 76-80, 67 TC 481; Cohen 38 TC 37; Van Kalb TC MEMO 1978 366; Flemming TC MEMO 1980 583), the cost difference between gluten containing food products and specialty gluten-free alternatives is tax deductible for Celiac patients. However, it didnt turn out to be that simple.
    Further research revealed that only the portion which exceeds a 7.5% threshold of adjusted gross income for all medical expenses combined would be deductible. In English, that meant that if I had an income of $50,000, I would only be able to deduct my extra expense of gluten-free foods (and any other legally deductible medical expense) that exceeded $3,750 (7.5% of $50,000)! Well, gluten-free foods are not that expensive!
    Knowing I would never reach that deductibility threshold, my search continued. Suddenly, a rare epiphany befell me. Since the IRS had ruled specialty foods that are medically necessary to treat a condition are deductible, it may follow that these same expenses may be reimbursable through my employers Flexible Spending Account program.
    Basically, the Flexible Spending Account is a plan that allows you, the employee, to set up a separate savings account, usually administered by a third party. You decide at the beginning of the year how much to contribute to this account. The contributions are deducted from your payroll before tax (meaning you are not charged income tax on the portion of your income you put into the account). As you have out of pocket medical expenses, you file a claim from the Flexible Spending Account administrator for reimbursement of those expenses. Once the account is emptied, no further reimbursements are possible for that year. One caveat with these plans is that they are "use it or lose it," which means that if you do not have sufficient medical expenses equal to the amount contributed you will forfeit any unclaimed balance. Your human resources department should be able to tell you if your company offers a Flexible Spending Account.
    In my case, I first called the human resources department at my place of employment to find out if indeed my rationale was valid. The response was "I dont know, but I doubt it"! Never one to take no for an answer (especially when preceded by "I dont know"!), I pressed on. A phone call to the Flexible Spending Account administration company yielded the answer I had hoped for—YES!
    Fortunately, I happened to connect with a customer service representative who was extremely thorough and diligent. She had to put me on hold several times, but she finally found not only the answer I was looking for, but also the proper procedure for filing a claim. She sent me a worksheet that I now use to file any claim for gluten-free foods. The sheet has a place to list the food item, cost of the gluten-free variety, cost of the gluten-containing variety, and the price difference. I made several copies of the worksheet, so now whenever I file a claim, I just fill out a new sheet. The receipts for the food items I am requesting reimbursement for must be included each time with the worksheet. With my first claim, I also had to provide a letter from my doctor clearly stating I was diagnosed with celiac disease and that I must be on a gluten-free diet. They keep this letter on file, so I do not have to send it each time.
    Generally speaking, any medical expense the IRS considers deductible (on Schedule A of your 1040 form) is reimbursable, however, employers are not obligated to follow those guidelines. They are not able to add other expenses that are not deductible, but they can delete certain ones (like gluten-free foods) if they choose. So it behooves you to check with your Flexible Spending Account administrator to find out what your plan covers and the proper procedure for reimbursement. It may be necessary to ask to speak to a supervisor, since not every customer service representative will be as helpful as the one I had. You may wish to cite the IRS rulings I listed earlier to convince them to accept this as a reimbursable item. This can also be helpful to convince them to reimburse gluten-free food items if they do not currently do so.
    While it is still your money that is paying for the entire cost of gluten-free food, using the Flexible Spending Account to switch that money to the tax free variety can add up to significant savings. Depending on the amount of gluten-free food you are buying, and your tax bracket, it can easily be over $100 per year in tax savings!

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