Can You Claim Groceries on Your Taxes?

by Jay P. Whickson, Demand Media
    There are some situations where groceries are tax-deductible.

    There are some situations where groceries are tax-deductible.

    Everyone can claim groceries on their taxes. However, most of the time, the IRS sends a very personal note indicating the deduction was disallowed and requesting more money. There are some situations where groceries could become a legitimate expense. This doesn't mean the IRS will accept it immediately. It simply means you have justification to believe it's legitimate and not a frivolous deduction.

    Purpose

    One of the biggest factors in deciding whether groceries were deductible is the purpose for the groceries. If it was just to feed your family, don't even think of it. Everyone has to eat, even if it seems your kids have a tapeworm and they eat more food than others, it's still not deductible. Don't think about naming the tapeworm you believe your child has and using it as an exemption, either.

    Charity

    If you purchased food to donate to a food bank or donated the food to another organization that gives to needy families, you have a good shot at receiving the deduction. Charitable donations are deductible on your itemized deductions. If you do random acts of kindness and simply leave a food basket on the doorstep of a needy neighbor, you can't deduct the groceries. It must go to a qualified tax-exempt organization if you want the IRS to allow it.

    Educator Expense

    There are many types of work situations in which your groceries could be legitimate deductions. For instance, if you're a schoolteacher and you decide the class needs to make cookies for old people for Christmas, the purchase of the groceries is work-related and not for personal use. Educators don't have to itemize to receive the deduction. On the 2009 tax form, line 23, you could put up to $250 of qualified expenses paid for classroom supplies without itemizing.

    Other Jobs

    If you threw a lavish dinner party in your home for clients or your staff, you can deduct the cost of the groceries you used for the party. The IRS isn't unreasonable. They don't want an exact count on the number of shrimp each person ate but you have to be accurate in your records. For instance, if you had a client over for dinner and deduct $300 for the groceries, the IRS might just raise an eyebrow and require receipts and more information. If you own the business and file Schedule C, show it as a deduction on that schedule under business entertainment. If you are an employee, use the itemized schedule and list it under miscellaneous expenses.

    About the Author

    Jay P. Whickson worked as an insurance rep, financial planner and stockbroker from 1979 until her retirement in 2007 when she began writing about the field of finance. Whickson has both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in education from Indiana University. She also has post Masters courses in science and a number of different insurance and investment designations and degrees.

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