I’ve been taking a break from recipe development to create a Gluten-Free Medical Expense Tracker that helps calculate the differential cost between gluten-free and regular food.
The government allows Celiacs to claim the differential cost of gluten-free foods as a medical expense on personal yearly tax submissions. Even though my husband has Celiac disease, we never took advantage of claiming the cost of gluten-free food because, in the past, we simply didn’t have enough medical expenses. All of that changed after I contracted Lyme disease, so I decided it was time to develop a spreadsheet to help track our food costs.
I’m not going to sugar coat it: tracking gluten-free food is time consuming! Nonetheless, it can be worth the effort if you can include it with other medical expenses. Considering just my husband’s differential cost of gluten-free food, we spent over $1300 more for groceries in 2013 than we would have if my husband wasn’t Celiac.
As any of you that have chronic Lyme disease know, paying for treatment is anything but cheap — since doctors won’t treat here and almost all medical costs to treat abroad are paid out-of-pocket. That’s why it’s important to claim every medical expense you can in order to get as much money back as possible.
A few notes before using the Gluten-Free Medical Expense Tracker:
- Unless your medical tax credit claim exceeds 3% of your net income or approx. $2,100 (whichever is less), it won’t be worth the excessive time and effort to calculate the incremental cost of gluten-free food if that is your only medical expense.
- On Revenue Canada’s website it states that “persons with Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) are entitled to claim the incremental costs associated with the purchase of gluten-free (GF) products as a medical expense.” Here is the link to Revenue Canada’s website regarding gluten-free products: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/330/clc-eng.html
According to the link above, to support your claim, Revenue Canada requires the following:
- a letter from a medical practitioner confirming the person suffers from Celiac disease and requires GF products as a result of that disease;
- a receipt to support the cost of each GF product or intermediate product claimed; and
- a summary of each item purchased during the 12-month period for which the expenses are being claimed (that’s where my Expense Tracker comes in!).
The exact wording on the website makes it look like Celiac disease is the only disease that is recognized in claiming gluten-free food as a medical expense, so I called the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for clarification (1-800-959-8281).The agent I spoke to read and parroted back exactly what is on their website – not very helpful!
I then contacted a certified professional bookkeeper to ask if she has ever had success claiming the medical expense for those who don’t have Celiac disease. Her response was “I’ve never had CRA question the additional expense incurred due to the need for a gluten free diet, whether they have or don’t have Celiac disease.”
My best advice is try it and see, but do be sure to get a note from your physician that includes the phrasing ‘gluten intolerance’ since that wording is on the website.
Last year, we claimed the gluten-free expense on our taxes, but only for my husband who does have Celiac disease. We will be claiming for both of us this year, so I will update this blog with the result.
Now on to the ‘how to’:
The excel spreadsheet attached at the end of this post helps us track our gluten-free purchases month-by-month on one tab and then compile all the information on another tab to calculate the difference between gluten-free and regular food purchases.
The first tab “GF Purchases” is a monthly tracker to record what items we purchase, how many of each item we buy each month, the cost of each item and how many grams is in the package. The grams are important to record, because if you compare the size of a gluten-free product to its counterpart you will notice a considerable difference in size. When you take into account the difference, gram for gram, gluten-free food is EXTREMELY expensive! The last column at the end of the 12 month period will total the number of each item purchased annually.
The second tab “GF Med. Expense Spreadsheet” is where it all comes together. I’ve provided some common categories on this tab to give you a start, but you will modify and add to it to suit your own needs. There are formulas in columns ‘I’, ‘J’, ‘L’ and ‘M’ that calculate how much you can claim for each gluten-free item. The calculations automatically do a ‘gram-for-gram’ comparison for you. All you need to do is transfer over each item from the first tab (GF Purchases) to the relevant columns on this spreadsheet, (i.e. the item name, brand purchased, number of grams, number purchased, and the purchase price for each gluten-free item).
Then you need to do some homework and find the cheapest comparable regular product, the number of grams for that product and how much it costs. You could find this information in the supermarket, but why price compare that way with the convenience of the internet? Instead, I go online to either walmart.ca or grocerygateway.com to find the information I need to fill out those columns.
Once you’ve input all your info, the formulas in each column will figure out the price differential. The bottom of the spreadsheet is where it will total your yearly incremental costs of gluten-free food (highlighted in yellow on row 83). This will give you a number you can add in to your medical expenses and include on your income tax return.
You will also need to print off a copy of the “GF Med. Expense Spreadsheet” to submit with your tax return if you are filing a paper copy. It’s not necessary to submit all your cash register receipts at this point, but you will need to save them in case Canada Revenue Agency ever requests to see them.
Now that we have medical expenses to claim, we find it much easier to purchase tax software (we use UFile) and file our tax forms electronically. That way the program can calculate the medical expense and also determine whether it’s more beneficial for you or your spouse to claim it on your taxes (medical expenses should be claimed on the lower-income spouse’s return to maximize your tax relief).
Keeping track of gluten-free expenses is a lot of work but I try to sit down at the computer at least every two weeks to input our grocery purchases, check off each receipt and store them away. You will find that if you tackle it on a regular basis, as with any task, it’s not as overwhelming!
If you use the Gluten Free Medical Expense Tracker, please let me know how successful you were with submitting to the CRA by leaving a comment below or getting in touch with me at email@example.com.
Best of health in 2015!