Thursday, May 12, 2011

Claiming Celiac Related Medical Expenses on Your Taxes

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          Tax season is behind us for this year, but preparation for a successful filing season next year should start now if you are interested in taking a medical credit on your taxes. This is a bit of a touchy subject for people, so I have to say that I am not, nor have I ever been, a tax expert or professional. My advice should not be taken at face value and research should always be done on your own, especially regarding legal advice (and money matters!). The IRS staffs real, live people that are available to take your calls regarding the tax laws and they can actually help! As with all call centers, it might be hit and miss with the operator you get, but overall they want their money and are more than happy to tell you how to file your taxes.
That being said, I wanted to give you a rough break down of how to go about claiming your medical expenses related to Celiac Disease. For the 2010 filing season (that was April 2011), in order to claim medical expenses they had to total more than 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). So if Jane Doe had an AGI of $34,567, she would have needed more than $2,592.53 ($34,567 x .075) in unreimbursed medical expenses. This can be a lifesaver if you are uninsured, like myself. These medical costs, which I will tell you how to go about calculating in just a bit, are going to be entered into a Schedule A that you can download and print out to attach to your regular 1040. 

The most important part of being able to claim the medical deduction is that you need proof that a gluten free diet is medically necessary for you to remain healthy. This can be accomplished by a letter from your doctor, signed and dated, stating that your diet is needed. This is also the case for any other illness that you are going to claim – a bad back needed back braces that you have to purchase on your own or something of that nature. I know that this can be frustrating for people who have not been officially diagnosed by a doctor, but have just done the elimination diets on their own. It's a roadblock, but you have to get that statement from your doctor. No ifs, ands, or buts. 

Once you have the letter in hand, you can officially claim your medical expenses and food costs. This might sound amazing, but there is a formula you have to use. A normal loaf of bread retails for $3, but gluten free bread is $6, you can claim the $3 difference per loaf of bread. Your 5lb bag of gluten free flour is $8, while a 5lb sack of wheat flour is $3, you are able to claim the $5 difference. Soy milk vs cow milk is the same. This is a bit of a pain in the ass, I will admit, but if you have two or more people in your household that are gluten free (or on a medically prescribed diet of another kind), this is really helpful in the end. Keep your receipts, but they do tend to fade over time, so make monthly copies. This will allow you to go through and calculate how much you're spending on gluten free items vs. conventional items. 

While I shouldn't have to mention this, I sadly have to: If you are on a gluten-free diet for weight loss or because you just think it makes you feel better and have had several negative tests for Celiac, you do not qualify for this write off. It's like trying to write off a tummy tuck. Also, if your child has Autism and the diet has not been medically prescribed, you cannot claim this either.

Over all, just remember that there has to be two important parts to properly claiming your additional food costs for Celiac – 1) you need a doctor's directive for it, and 2) you can only claim the difference between gluten free and conventional items totaling beyond 7.5% of your AGI. Keep in mind that these tax laws are always changing, and again, please research this yourself and find the best route for your personal situation.
- Patricia

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