Right now the holiday season is in full-swing, fun is in the air and good-times are being had by all. But before we know it, the decorations and gifts will be packed away, we’ll have rung in the New Year, and the holiday season will turn into tax season with a blink of the eye.
That is why I was so intrigued when I found this article on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) website on how to deduct the costs of a medically required specialized diet on your tax returns. It’s a great resource that lists information, forms and IRS guidelines for you, and your accountant or tax preparer. Thanks NFCA for providing us with information such as this!
This article highlights the key points such as having a note from your doctor stating that you need to be on a gluten-free / allergen-free diet, making sure that you keep your receipts, and determining the amount that is deductible. In addition to these key points I also have a few tips to assist in deducting food costs on tax returns:
- Highlight the items on your receipts after each shopping trip: Most supermarkets abbreviate the description of the items bought. That is why it is so important to note the items that you can deduct by highlighting each deductible item after each shopping trip. Otherwise, you’ll be scratching your head right before tax time, pawing through receipts and trying to remember what items are tax-deductible.
- Keep a spreadsheet of the costs of the “regular” items: I know that Lean Cuisine frozen meals cost about $4.96 per unit on Amazon.com, which I noted on my “Regular Food Cost” spreadsheet. Now, whenever I buy a gluten-free frozen meal I use the difference from this “base-line” cost to determine the tax deductible amount. This spreadsheet prevents me from having to search for the price after my next shopping trip. As an example, my favorite gluten-free frozen meal, Lillian’s Healthy Gourmet cost about $7.99 per unit. That is a difference of about $3.00 – the tax deductible amount.
- Keep all receipts for food in one place: I have a big manila envelope on my desk in my kitchen. Whenever, I go to the grocery store, natural food store, or even order food products on-line, I put the highlighted receipt in this envelope. At the end of the year, during tax-prep time this solves the dilemma of searching for receipts.
- Plan ahead & reap the benefits: Make sure that you start the organization of this “tallying” of deductible amounts before the New Year begins. Be ready to go for January 1 of next year! Make sure that you set up an appointment with your accountant or tax preparer to discuss these deductions with them.
Eventually, saving & tallying your food receipts will be second-nature. Another benefit? You will start to see trends and unknowingly track where the best gluten-free and allergen-free food deals are!