The Celiac Story: Part VII

Note: This is the latest in a series of posts about The Kid’s Celiac disease diagnosis. They will all be collected under the Gluten Schmuten category tag.

“Holy shit! $8.99 a box?”

There are a myriad of reasons why The Wife does not swear a lot in public: she’s a teacher and doesn’t want to set a bad example, we have a toddler who repeats everything, she’s not naturally a swearer (whereas I subscribe to the Buzz Bissinger theory that the most perfect sentence is the one where the “F Word” is used as a noun, verb and adjective.) and deep down I think she’s still afraid her mother will hear her swear and send her to her room.

celiacgraphicWhat moved her to utter such a foul and filthy obscenity was the price of a box of frozen gluten-free soft pretzels.

As I have mentioned before, The Kid does not have a wide palette to begin with. This has made shopping for her newly-diagnosed Celiac disease a little easier. Familiar crackers, granola bars, cereal, and cookies can be swapped for the acceptable gluten-free variety.

Pretzels, on the other hand, have been tougher. Soft pretzels are basically bread dough that has been twisted into a shape, brushed with an egg wash and baked. The Kid is not picky. She would eat Wegmans store-brand pretzels (which I’m pretty sure are made by the SuperPretzel people) and it would take about a month to get through a box of six. Those were $1.99. Occasionally, the brand name variety would land on Shoppers Club. Add in a coupon and we could get that down to $1.49 per box.

We were happy to find that there was a soft pretzel. Making them from scratch seemed like too much of a gamble only to have The Kid say no. So, when The Wife asked me how much the box of four cost, I answered and elicited the above response.

The cost of food has been what is so stunning at this point. I’m going to write more about this at a later date, but wanted to focus in on the only good (other than the non-fatal designation) that has come thus far from the diagnosis. The Kid’s food is tax deductible.

Medical treatments for diseases can be taken against your income at tax time, if you itemize (and we do). When I was going through The Weight Loss Story, the meal replacements were considered nourishment that was a substitute for food I would ordinarily eat, so they could not be deducted. However, that is different with Celiac disease.

The most recent statement of clarification on this matter comes in a 2011 letter known in tax parlance as Cohen 38 TC 387:

Specifically, the excess cost of specially prepared foods designed to treat a medical condition over the cost of ordinary foods which would have been consumed but for the  condition is an expense for medical care. A taxpayer who can establish the medical purpose of the diet may deduct the excess cost if the taxpayer can prove what the taxpayer spent for the special diet and what the taxpayer would spend for food to satisfy normal nutritional needs.

This letter clarifies ambiguity in IRS Publication 502, which refers to medical and dental expenses. What it says is that, as long as we have a doctor’s letter stating the diagnosis of our dependent, I can deduct the difference between normal food and gluten-free food from my taxes. Rather than become an expert in tax law or reinvent the wheel on this one, I’ll refer to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness for their explanation.

List the prices of gluten-free foods compared to those of regular foods. The difference between those prices is tax-deductible. For example, if a pound of wheat flour costs $0.89 and a pound of rice flour costs $3.25, then you may deduct $2.36 for each pound of rice flour purchased.

Products like xanthan gum and sorghum flour are completely tax-deductible as they have no “regular” counterpart but are purchased to meet your dietary needs. Shipping costs for online purchases are also permissible deductions.

In our case, gluten-free soft pretzels are $8.99 and regular soft pretzels are $1.99, I get to take a $7 deduction each time I buy a box of the gluten-free. Because it is food and not medicine, it cannot go through an FSA, HSA or be submitted for health insurance reimbursement.

So, that eases the blow a little.


3 thoughts on “The Celiac Story: Part VII”

  1. Welcome to our world. Do NOT try to tackle this all at once. You will lose your mind. It is so arduous that I am writing my master’s thesis on what we have gone through during our first year with Celiac. My 13 year old was diagnosed almost exactly one year ago today, and our life has changed in so many ways. If ANYONE had given me the info I am presenting as my master’s proposal, I would have been on my knees kissing their feet. Nevertheless, you will eventually realize that we are the lucky ones; the ones who know what the food companies are hiding from us. We are nutrition experts because we know EVERY ingredient that lies in those middle aisles. We know grocery stores and who to trust and who not to trust. You are on a long, long journey, but it is a good one. You must reconcile yourself to the fact that your child will be the healthiest child in the school and will live far longer than her diabetic ridden second grade school mate, who is sucking down oreos faster than a garbage disposal.

    Start big (obvious gluten foods), then go small (lip gloss, medications, subingredients)

    btw, your blog is a scream!

    1. Stephanie: Thanks for your note. It’s always good to hear from someone in the trenches. I think it’s human nature to try to hit this head on and drive through it as hard as you can. It’s how both The Wife and I tend to attack things. But, there’s so much unknown about what’s next. The Kid could decide to start eating vegetables tomorrow. Our doctors could start acting human and start being helpful. You just never know.

      1. Aha! I laugh at your joke! Dr.s help…. ludicrous! They only give you numbers. Start with the “GIG.” Gluten Intolerance Group, based out of Seattle, but has regional chapters. There are people who will meet with you at a coffee shop and tell you where to start. I don’t know why it took me 10 months to meet with my local chapter head (idiot me). These guys know everything, unlike the dr.s, dieticians, and such. You will be teaching them in a year.

        The Kid will eat pasta, right? I knew we had made it to the next level of gluten enlightenment when we bought a grain mill. After realizing that rice pasta was mush, and quinoa pasta cost $7.00 a pound, I decided to make my own pasta. When I found “Bob’s Red Mill” quinoa flour was $12.99 for 22 ounces, I about started banging my head on the floor. That’s when I said, “ENOUGH!” And bought a grain mill. It’s fun and messy. And we all like that!

        Also, the one thing that brings tears to my eyes is how kind people are about cleaning out their cupboards to give you what is left of their attempts to cut out gluten. Managers and cooks will come out of their kitchens to talk to you about how they will prepare your food. Entertainment places like movies, amusement parks, etc., won’t make you pay ridiculous prices for crap and will instead let you take your own food inside, if they think their food might kill your child.

        And finally, phone apps, websites: Gluten Free Scanner, Food Facts for finding poison food. and GIG for learning how to take control of your life.

        Keep on keepin’ on.

        Can you tell I’m procrastinating…. This is finals week and I have the master’s proposal presentation in 4 hours. Ha, ha.

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