By Tracy Bush (bio below)
As we all know, food allergies can put a little dent in our wallets (to say the least). But food is a necessity- there is no substitute to eating. So what do we do? As any good mother does, food allergic or not, we put on our Super Mom Budgeting Capes and go to town! And although some of the things we do may seem so minimal, it does help overall in the end.
One easy way to ease the food allergy money burden is to include it in your annual tax deductions. Now, before you get very excited, I must point out that there are some very specific rules for including food allergies in your tax world. For example, you cannot claim a banana, safe juice, or even the jar of SunButter, now available in many local grocery stores. It’s tricky but not impossible.
Step 1- Discuss Food Allergy Deductions with Your Tax Accountant
This is very important- always, always be clear about why your family needs to consider this to be included with your annual tax return. The laws are so specific and may be different state-to-state and city-to-city, so having a clear idea of what is allowed, what will be deducted and how to track your expense will keep everything on the up and up. It may be a bit more time consuming to keep track of your food allergies but it would be worse to have the IRS knocking on your door, asking you questions that you don’t have answers to.
Step 2- Itemize, Track and Be Specific
There are specific rules about which foods are allowed to be included in your tax deductions. A simple way to keep track is to set up a spreadsheet or list that you update every time you purchase foods, supplements or anything else specific to your food allergies. This may include supplements in the forms of oils, powders or capsules that are necessary due to the food allergy. You cannot claim foods just because you have a personal preference or are eating a certain diet due to moral or other beliefs (such as being a Vegetarian). Simply post the item purchased and the date, the amount and keep the receipt – always. And, as with any tax records, always keep a record for yourself as well.
So which foods do you track and which don’t apply? From what has been explained to me, you can track any necessary foods/supplements that are medically necessary due to food allergies AND that cannot be purchased at a typical grocery store. Items you can deduct include foods/supplements purchased at Whole Foods or other local health food stores or mail ordered. Here are some examples:
- You are having a lovely shopping trip at Whole Foods. You purchase a bunch of grapes, avocados, some gluten free cookie mix and some frozen Ian’s chicken tenders. What can be applied? Answer: The gluten free cookie mix and the frozen chicken tenders. The other food items can all be found at any grocery store.
- During errands, you stop at your local health food store. You purchase some coconut aminos (soy sauce substitute), some vitamin supplements and some Vegenaise. What can be applied? Answer: All of the above, unless your local food store regularly stocks these items, which are considered specialty food items.
Step 3- Get Documentation from Your Doctor
It is very important that a doctor diagnose the person claiming the foods with a food allergy or a diet that is medically necessary. Just as you cannot claim foods due to a moral belief, you cannot claim foods without being formally diagnosed. What does this require? Two things that most of us usually have as part of our annual routine anyway: Diagnosis & Follow up and an updated Doctor’s note for each tax year.
- Diagnosis & Follow Up- If you or your family suspects a food allergy, have it diagnosed by your doctor. There are a few methods of testing to choose from but your doctor is the only one who can formally diagnose. Follow ups are routine for those of us with allergies (food and otherwise) so this is not anything out of the ordinary. Follow ups are good not only for medications refills but to discuss, plan and treat any new or changing food allergies.
- Doctor’s Note- Each year, ask the doctor that diagnosed you for a simple letter for your tax accountant to be typed up on their letterhead clearing stating all food allergies and when they were diagnosed. This is additional documentation in case your taxes are ever in question. Paper trail yes, but also security. This is a sample of what we use:
To whom it may concern,
This letter is to certify that (name of person with allergy) has been a patient under my care since (date of first visit). (First name) has a history of several food allergies, which include (list all food allergies). Because of the severity of his/her allergies, (First name)’s diet is limited and most of his/her food items cannot be found in an average supermarket. His/her parents do most of his/her shopping at specialty stores such as Whole Foods, area health food stores and online.
I feel it is a medical necessity to keep (First name) on his/her strict diet to avoid further allergic reactions from occurring. Therefore, I highly recommend that his/her foods items and any supplements be considered for reimbursement.
If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me at the below address or telephone number.
(Signature of Doctor)
Food allergies can be tricky, but the important thing to remember is that smart budgeting, being a Super Mom Sleuth and gathering information can give you a variety of ways to combat some of the pressures. Just remember to breath, share and eat wisely!
For additional information on how to claim food allergies as a tax deduction, please visit this tax website.
We’d love to hear from you! Do you currently submit deductions for food allergies or a medically diagnosed diet? What are your tips and tricks for easy submission?
Bio: Tracy Bush is the founder and President of Nutrimom, a consulting business that specializes in food allergies and helps to provide guidance and support for anyone that has been diagnosed with food allergies. She consults with a variety of people of all ages and has previous work experience with a Medical Doctor in New Jersey. Her experience began prior to starting her business when her own son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies that were life-threatening.