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Do you buy special foods because of your food allergy or celiac disease? These food costs can add up quickly. But avoiding allergens or gluten (wheat products) is a medical necessity.

You may ask yourself: can I deduct these food costs on my income tax return? It depends. And it’s not easy. Here’s what you need to know…

  • The person with the allergy or celiac disease must be you, a spouse or qualified dependent.
  • You need a doctor’s official diagnosis of food allergy or celiac disease. You should have a clear, written statement that you or your loved one must avoid contact with the allergen. The statement should say you or your loved one must buy these foods as part of a medical treatment plan.
  • The foods you buy must be specific to the diagnosis.
  • Tax law says you can deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. If your income is $60,000 per year, that means you can deduct all medical expenses exceeding $4,500.
  • You can only deduct the difference in cost between allergen-free foods and regular foods. If you have a dairy allergy, you can count the cost of buying soy milk versus cow’s milk, but not the cost of buying juice instead of milk.
  • You must keep detailed records. This includes keeping receipts from all your grocery purchases throughout the year. Make notes on each receipt or in a ledger to differentiate allergy-safe or gluten-free foods vs. conventional foods.

This can be both a tedious undertaking and time-consuming! But it may be worth it if your food costs add up over time. Keep receipts so you can itemize expenses – if you don’t, it may not be worth your time.

Consult with a tax advisor if you are not sure if you qualify for a tax deduction.

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How do I deduct food purchases on my tax form?

When filing, you will have the choice to either take the standard deduction or itemize your food expenses. If you want to deduct food purchases, do not take the standard deduction.

You are only eligible to deduct food purchases if you itemize your deductions. Use Schedule A of the IRS form 1040. To reach 7.5%, add your allergy-free food expenses to prescription costs, co-pays, or other out-of-pocket payments.

Take advantage of all possible expenses. These can include taxi, bus, parking, or other transportation costs when food shopping. If you drive, keep track of your mileage. Use the standard medical deduction of 19 cents per mile.

If you shop for groceries online or by mail order, you can include delivery fees as part of your deduction.

Written records don’t get submitted with your tax return – just the amount of your medical expenses. Keep all your receipts and other records in case the IRS decides to audit you. And remember the IRS can be slow. They can even question a tax return up to three years after you file it.

What other food allergy-related expenses can I deduct?

Attending a medical conference to learn how to treat food allergy or celiac disease for yourself or a loved one? You may be able to deduct admission and transportation costs.

The conference must be specific to your condition. And you must prove you attended. Food and lodging are not deductible for conferences.

Note: this article is informational only and is not intended to provide tax advice. If you need help or guidance with your taxes, please consult a certified tax advisor.

Reviewed by:

Purvi Parikh, MD, FACAAI is an adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill in New York City. She is on faculty as Clinical Assistant Professor in both departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine.