Are diets tax deductible? Before you diet devotees start cutting the low-fat cake in celebration of a tax break – not so fast! Though you may be passionate about your paleo diet, trust me, Uncle Sam does not give a monkey’s behind about your inessential “need” to eat like a club-wielding caveman.
But there are ways that your diet can be a tax deduction.
How Can a Diet or Weight Loss Program Be Tax Deductible?
Ha! You didn’t think Uncle Sam was going to make it easy for you did you? Most of you are just going to have to bid adieu to the hard-earned cash you spent on any health-related expenses, but there are a select few of you who will get to recoup those costs.
You may be eligible to write-off your diet expenses as a tax deduction if you are medically mandated to be on a restricted diet and exercise regimen due to a condition diagnosed by a physician.
So, to put it succinctly, yes you may get a tax write-off if your doctor wags a finger at you and demands that you cut the carbs because of an illness. But, you don’t get a darned thing without written proof, or if you’re going gluten-free “just cause!”
Even with a directive from your doctor, there are other factors you need to consider before you can get a little “dough” for your diet.
Your Medical Expenses Have to Exceed 7.5% of Your Income
First thing’s first, in order to qualify, your medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Now don’t let the fancy term intimidate you – your AGI is simply your total earnings minus any adjustments to your income like contributions to your traditional IRA and student loan interest.
Let’s say you earn $40,000 and you spent $5,000 on medical expenses for the year. Would you qualify? Well, let’s do a little math:
7.5% of $40,000 is $3,000. And according to the IRS, only medical costs that exceed that 7.5% window is tax deductible, so this leaves you with a tax deduction of $2000. ($5,000-3,000)
Make Sure You Know Which Medical Expenses Count
So you got yourself a spectacular boob job and a new surgically-sculpted butt – good for you! But don’t stick your hands out for a deduction from Uncle Sam. He couldn’t care less about your cosmetic procedures.
Expenses that are poised to be reimbursed by your insurance or employer are also not tax deductible, and of course, you’ll get nada for general health purchases like gym
membership fees, vitamin C tablets, organic toothpaste, or whatever else Dr. Oz suggested you buy from the health store.
Treatment for preventative care, surgeries, doctor visits, concierge medicine, travel costs, dental and vision expenses, and medical prescriptions are all eligible for a tax write-off. Expenses for crutches, glasses, and hearing aids, for example, qualify.
Diet-Related Expenses Qualify for Deductions – With Proof
Yes, you can lump your diet-related expenses in with your other medical expenses to help you surpass that 10% window in order to recoup some of your losses. But of course, there is always a catch.
Uncle Sam won’t let you put down a diet as a tax deduction without saying, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” So how do you prove that your food restrictions are qualified for a deduction?
Saying “Well, my doctor says I’m chubby and thinks I should go on a diet” doesn’t cut it. You’d have to be officially stamped with a medical condition or disease, like obesity, (recently declared a disease) high cholesterol, diabetes, or heart disease.
if you can prove a physician diagnosed you with the condition and you incurred costs due to treatments mandated by your doctor, then it’s tax deductible. For this reason, get a doctor’s letter that states your diagnosis of obesity (or related disease) that would be improved with weight loss. Also keep any invoices, receipts, or weight loss program booklet that provides proof of meeting attendance and payments.
Here’s How Weight Loss Programs Like Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem Can Be a Tax Deduction
As mentioned above, if your diet or weight loss program was prescribed by your doctor to treat conditions like obesity, then it qualifies as a tax deduction.
So, what exactly qualifies as a “weight loss program?”
A “weight loss program” is defined as a “structured pattern of activities designed to help a person lose weight.” This program can be provided by a health-care professional or commercial company like Weight Watchers (view coupons), Nutrisystem (view coupons), Jenny Craig, or Medifast (view here).
If you were just inspired by Oprah to lose 20 pounds, that’s great, but not good enough for the IRS. The “Oprah effect” may influence millions of Americans, but not Uncle Sam! You’ll still need a letter from your doctor to win him over.
Gluten-Free Diet Can Also Be a Tax Deductible Diet
Who knew you could make a little “bread” by not eating any bread? Bad pun very much intended. Sorry, couldn’t help it! Again, this doesn’t apply to those who nix gluten out of their diet because it’s trendy – this tax deduction is geared towards those who are medically required to avoid gluten.
Those diagnosed with celiac disease, for example, would be eligible for a tax break. And with good reason – have you seen how pricey gluten-free products can be? According to a National Institutes of Health study, on average, gluten-free versions of food are 242 percent more expensive than regular products.
The Betty Crocker Yellow Cake mix, for example, is priced at a reasonable $1.59, but their gluten-free version costs a whopping $4.69. Whew! That really adds up.
Those mandated to maintain a gluten-free diet, and are diagnosed with a disease like celiac, should keep receipts from every trip to the supermarket and record the cost differences between gluten-free alternatives and regular foods.
For products with no gluten-free counterparts, like xanthan gum and sorghum flour, you can add the full price of those products for your tax deductions.
Now that you’ve got a pretty good idea about who and what qualifies for a tax deductible diet – there’s just one more thing to add. You can’t claim any health or medical expenses without itemizing your deductions on a form known as Form 1040, Schedule A. (If you use software like TurboTax or H&R Block, they will walk you through this)
So for those who happily swap quinoa for pasta because it’s “hip,” sorry, no deductions for you! (You can go on hating taxes just as much as before) But for Americans who must unfortunately stick to certain foods due to a condition, there’s a pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.
Post author: Kimberly Gedeon