Food Allergies and Tax Deductions

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

Sincerely,

(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?

Nutrimom

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.

26 Comments

  1. jack on March 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Wish it applied to regular organic produce…realizing it much easier to just go to single ingredients instead of finding the “perfect combination” in a boxed food is rather annoying. Something either may contain:_______. Who creates these guidelines? IF an allergen is proven then perhaps an allowance or something yearly for that person. You get X amount for a child so…(?)

    • Jennifer on March 19, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Jack, I couldn’t agree with you more. Maybe all it would take to make the change is if the allergy parents get together and cause a fuss, bombard the tax offices and such. It’s a thought…

  2. Stephanie on March 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    The deductions only happen IF spending more than 7.5% of your annual income on these foods and that is the DIFFERENCE between a regular version (say $4.50 for peanut butter and $6.50 for Sunbutter, that $2 is what would be deductible IF you get to the 7.5%)

    • Jennifer on March 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      Thank you for clarifying Stephanie!

      • Mikhaela from Safe and Scrumptious Blog on March 12, 2014 at 7:59 am

        Right, that’s what we were told as well — so I not only have to track everything I bought, but also how the cost compared to the allergy-packed cheaper versions I could NOT buy. Still, I may try this… we buy so many specialty food items!

        • Jennifer on March 14, 2014 at 6:02 pm

          Seems like a lit of work, but important if it pays off.

    • Jen on March 1, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      Right, and if you pay “alternative minimum taxes” then medical expenses have to be over 10% of income.

  3. Allergy Warriors and Gluten Free Gal on March 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    All of my blogs from Worpress also post on our Facebook page, so I have people asking questions (www.facebook.com/allergywarriors). Any infor you can share with them would be great! I also posted the questions on my reblog too. Help!

  4. Sandy Wright on March 21, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Stephanie is correct with her information. When I spoke with my tax man last year concerning this issue, I discovered — to my surprise — that it is not worth the time and effort of keeping the records and the figuring of expenses. Perhaps a family of 4-5 may make a difference but I’m a single person, and with my other deductions, my tax man said it would not make any difference on my income tax. Disappointing that I wouldn’t get any refund …. but nice to know I didn’t have to spend any more time keeping all those receipts and figuring out the deductions!

    • Jennifer on March 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Sandy – thank you so much for letting us know. Yes, I can see that it will help some families, but not all. It’s certainly good to know. Thank you.

  5. Jenny on March 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    So, if I understand correctly, it’s only tax deductible if you purchase it at some sort of “specialty” store? It wouldn’t work for me then. We live in a rural area where I have to make do with what is easily accessible. My son is allergic to peanuts and soy with a sensitivity to eggs and dairy. I have to make the best with what I have nearby. It’s a challenge…but it sounds like for my family this wouldn’t be worth the work or effort, or the extra cost I would have to drive an extra distance to purchase things at a specialty store.

    • Jennifer on March 26, 2013 at 11:08 am

      Yes, Jenny, from what I understand, that is correct. But it applies to online purchases as well it seems. Maybe that work well for you?

  6. jenniferb on March 25, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    It’s very difficult to have enough food allergy expenses to qualify for this deduction, but it may be possible perhaps if epis, allergist appointments, and specialty food are all extra out-of-pocket expenses. It has to add up to quite a bit. The only time I have been able to use the medical expenses deduction so far was when we had to pay health insurance for me and the children out-of-pocket. My then-husband’s health insurance only provided coverage for him, and medical insurance for rest of the family was an additional out-of-pocket expense.

    • Jennifer on March 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Thank you for the clarification Jennifer. It is sad that these costs aren’t easier to deduct from taxes. As we all know, specialty foods for managing food allergies can really be expensive.

  7. Rhonda on November 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    can I deduct foods ordered gluten free from a restaurant? say GF pizza?

    • Jennifer on November 28, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      No, good idea, but only groceries.

  8. Janet on January 16, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I would assume this would apply to hair products, lotions, foods that I would have to make from scratch since I have a fragrance, egg and soy allergy and it is difficult to find products readily in the store. I usually have to order ingredients online.

    • Jennifer on January 17, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Hi Janet –

      It’s worth a try! I think the worst that can happen is that they refuse and then you own the government a bit of money. But it’s probably better to confirm with an accountant first. Jennifer

  9. Dean on February 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

    i would think if you wanted to take advantage of this, it would be better to put whatever is tax deductible on a separate receipt. it would be easier than going back later and doing the math for that one or two items, maybe a little extra time in the check out line, but a little money back in you pocket later if nice. I know I wouldn’t take advantage of this simply because the only allergy I have and avoid are nuts, but even then I don’t go out of my way, and I have a lot of allergies. if I actively avoided my allergies though this is definitely good to know

    • Jennifer on February 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Excellent point Dean. Great tip, thanks for mentioning it!

  10. jimmy on February 24, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    my daughter is allergic to dairy and peanuts and we purchase soy products, dairy free pizza and specialties ( candy, cookies ) for her, is this stuff considered tax deductible?

    • Jennifer on February 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      I believe it is, but it is best to check with an accountant to be sure. And keep those receipts!

  11. champo chola on March 15, 2015 at 4:39 am

    But this intense itching I ve is another from a different planet. Each time I take bath either with cold or lukewarm water it itch as if you are in a fury furnace. This condition is extremely awful such that you can’t enjoy life and just sitting on the toliet pan is hell. When you remove the clothes oh! The entire body will be itching so terribly and if you are not careful you can even start crying due to this awful itching.Drs just tells me that its could be an allergy. I ve been to so many hosiptals still no solution. One of the hosiptal I went to they said a liver is just functioning well, no Hiv, no disease in my blood you would wonder what is the problem then? I Can not go to church today due to the fact that its itching and how would people look at me when I start scratching in church? I,m stuck and of course all my plans are affected. I always ask what to do to stop this intense itching of my skin? Please help me in any way so that I can as well start doing what a normal person does. Yesterday I slept very late because of the same disease. Why am going through this unknown condition? Plz help!

    • Jennifer Roberge on March 16, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      Hi Champo – Please email me and I’ll try to provide some ideas to help your itching. I think there may be a food issue going on here, but there are other options as well. Thank you. jennifer@eczemacompany.com -Jennifer

  12. Stephanie Ann Goetsch on February 18, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Does it have to be purchased at a specialty store? Wal-Mart & Kroger are both carrying more & more specialty products, that my multiple food/drug allergic child can eat…and at a considerable savings. Is there documentation somewhere that spells out the “rules”?

    • Jennifer Roberge on March 10, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Stephanie –

      It’s best to speak with an accountant to make sure you know exactly what is eligible and what is not. Thanks!

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