Tax Breaks for Food Allergy and Celiac Special Diets


Families coping with food allergies and celiac disease often find themselves coping with another serious issue: the high cost of foods that are safe to consume for people suffering with those conditions.

TaxgirlLast week, Kelly Phillips Erb – aka Taxgirl® – was published in a column for Forbes outlining the requirements to receive a tax break for the purchase of such foods.

In the article, she first describes the foods you can’t receive a break for:

  • Foods that satisfy an ethical, moral, or religious sensibilities or beliefs, such as vegan, kosher, or halal foods;
  • Foods that are used to improve your health, even if a doctor recommends you lose weight or restrict sodium intake;
  • Foods that are substitutes for a normal diet, including weight-loss plans like NutriSystem and Weight Watchers.
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She then goes on to describe an exception the IRS will allow given the following requirements are met:

  • The food must not be used to satisfy normal nutritional needs;
  • The food must alleviate or treat an illness; and
  • The need for the food must be substantiated by a physician.

Foods that meet these requirements would be considered a qualified medical expense for purposes of tax deduction on Schedule A, but this means you must itemize and meet certain thresholds, and you can only claim the difference in cost of the special food vs the normal variety, e.g. if wheat bread costs $2 and a gluten-free substitute costs $5, you are entitled to claim the difference, $3.

Could this potentially save your family money? We suggest you read the original article and discuss it with your tax professional.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of

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  1. The problem is that gluten free bread and other similar items do not meet the requirements and no doctor would or should tell you to use these products to the extent you would need to in order to meet the threshold. Also, if you are eating a healthy diet -as treatment and as prescribed- it is going to consist of foods that are naturally gluten free and not considered “specialty foods”. Let’s face it folks, it’s expensive to eat healthy, ( or avoid things such as gluten ) regardless of why you choose to. The government also knows just exactly how to word this so as to have as few possible people actually trying to claim it.


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