Is Your Gluten-Free Food Tax Deductible?
Published February 8, 2021
Most people who are living gluten-free would agree that gluten-free foods tend to be costlier than conventional foods. When these foods are required for medical reasons, is it possible to deduct them from your taxes as a medical expense? The short answer is: Yes.
Here are some criteria:
1. To file for this type of deduction, the gluten-free foods you purchase – for yourself or a household member – must be prescribed by a doctor as part of a medical treatment for celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
2. You must itemize expenses when you do your taxes, on the Schedule A of the IRS Form 1040, to include the gluten-free food expenses.
3. You should keep careful records, including receipts, throughout the year for all of the food you’ve purchased, making notes to differentiate the gluten-free foods versus conventional foods.
4. The tax-deductible amount that would be considered a medical expense is not the total amount you’ve spent on gluten-free foods. Use the amount above what you would normally spend on comparable non-gluten-free products. Example: If you pay $7 for gluten-free bread but a conventional loaf is $2, the expense you can claim would be $5.
5. To deduct qualified medical expenses, your total medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). *
* This last requirement may make it not be worth the trouble of documenting gluten-free food expenses unless you have accumulated additional medical expenses that take you over 7.5% of adjusted gross income.
You may also be able to deduct expenses related to purchasing medically-prescribed gluten-free products including:
1. The full cost of purchasing items specific to the gluten-free diet, including cooking and baking items, that are not part of a standard, non-gluten-free diet. Example: Non-gluten-containing flours like tapioca, potato, rice flour, or xanthan gum for baking.
2. Travel expenses related to shopping for your medically-necessary gluten-free products.
3. Shipping or delivery expenses if you order products to help maintain your medically-necessary gluten-free diet.
As you can see, you need to keep detailed records all year round documenting your activities and purchases for your doctor-prescribed gluten-free diet in order to accurately itemize these health-related expenses.
You can also refer to the IRS Publication 502 (2020), Medical and Dental Expenses for more details including the current deductible mileage rate.
While the term “gluten-free” is not mentioned in Publication 502, the relevant rules (in bold below) relate to restricted diets and can be found under “Weight-Loss Programs:”
You can include the cost of special food in medical expenses only if:
1. The food doesn’t satisfy normal nutritional needs,
2. The food alleviates or treats an illness, and
3. The need for the food is substantiated by a physician.
The amount you can include in medical expenses is limited to the amount by which the cost of the special food exceeds the cost of a normal diet.
Even though a medically-prescribed gluten-free diet is not typically related to weight loss, the above passages can be reviewed by your tax accountant for your personal tax filings.
While it may be too late to use try to deduct your gluten-free diet for this year’s taxes, start keeping track for next year.