Monday, April 18, 2011

GF Tax Day Blues

Another year, another Turbotax adventure. And yet another year when I halfheartedly looked into the tax deductions for the GF diet. As I understand it:

(1) The price difference between a GF food item and its gluten-y counterpart (i.e. rice bread vs. wheat bread) can be claimed as a deduction, but ONLY IF:

(2) The individual/family have medical expenses greater than 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI).

This means that you have to keep every single receipt - and research gluten-containing counterparts - for every item you wish to deduct. Disturbingly, you need to have such high medical bills and/or low income to even qualify to claim these deductions. Call me crazy, but if either of those two conditions exists, it stands to reason that you won't exactly have the time/presence of mind to futz with all of those receipts!

I tried it one year, the receipt keeping. By the third month, I was swimming in a sea of paper and just annoyed by the whole endeavor. And, frankly, I was still sick. I hadn't yet started taking dapsone for my DH and woke up every single morning with new blisters, wondering if I'd ever respond to the GF diet. I was disheartened, miserable, and ITCHY. The diet was not taking care of me and I was resentful. While I stuck with the diet - hoping every day that it'd "kick in", I abandoned the receipts.

These days, I don't eat a ton of GF "products". Yes, I use mixes and breads, but I cook mostly with whole foods that aren't "specialty" items. That said, I am on a medically prescribed diet and spend waaaaaay more money than I otherwise would on food because of it. Food is my single greatest expense outside of rent and student loans, but not by choice. If I am hungry and out in the world, I can't grab a filling and inexpensive bagel or slice of pizza; I usually have to spend at least $10 for some form of to-go food from a safe source. (And here in NYC, it's often much more than than. One of my go-to spots offers a gf burger and baked potato that, with tax and tip, sets me back $15. )

That I have to incur medical costs equaling 7.5% of my AGI before I can claim deductions on my GF diet is infuriating. The GF diet IS my medicine.I don't have a choice in the matter and maintain it in order to not get sick. Why not make health a priority, allow the deductions with a celiac diagnosis alone? Better yet, how about a standard deduction with the submission of a doctor's diagnosis of celiac/DH/gluten-intolerance? If the GF diet is recognized as THE treatment for those conditions, why all the hoops to jump through? Geeargh!

Thus ends kvetch.

But now I'm so curious: Have you claimed the GF tax deduction? If so, was it worth it? Any tips? Thoughts on a better way the government could address our needs?

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