Cutting bread from your diet could potentially save you some bread on your taxes, financial experts say.
While diet gurus debate the health merits for the average person of avoiding the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley grains, no one disputes the extra cost. On average, the gluten-free versions of many foods were 242 percent pricier than the regular products in one National Institutes of Health study.
But Mark Luscombe, a principal federal tax analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting US, said some of the additional expense of going gluten-free may be a legitimate tax write-off.
“If you have a recognized disease where gluten-free foods help manage the condition and you have a certification from your doctor, you may be able to take a deduction," Luscombe said.
This could be good news for the 1 percent of the population with celiac disease, a diagnosed intolerance to gluten that causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms and increases the risk of some cancers. They should be able to write off the extra cost of buying gluten-free items plus the cost of shipping if they buy them online. Foods that contain xanthan gum and sorghum flour can be fully deducted because they have no gluten-filled alternative.
As for the other 30 percent of Americans who, according to the consumer research group NDP, avoid gluten because they believe they have some sort of insensitivity to it? Luscombe said he doubted such a write-off would fly.
Even someone with celiac will have to work hard for the tax break, Luscombe said. They will need a note from their doctor and they will have to keep meticulous track of how much more they spend on gluten-free products than on other similar products, he added.
That means saving all receipts and making notes of price differences. In addition, to get any deduction, all medical expenses must exceed 10 percent of gross adjusted income or 7.5 percent for people older than 65, Luscombe said.
For those who can clear all those hurdles, using medically sanctioned dietary restrictions as a tax write off does have the support of the Internal Revenue Service, Luscombe said. IRS Information Letter 2011-0035 states: "The excess cost of specially prepared foods designed to treat a medical condition over the cost of ordinary foods which would have been consumed but for the condition is an expense for medical care."