Celitax helps celiac disease sufferers track gluten-free purchases
The piles of insurance forms and medical documentation “extras” of living with chronic illness are stressful. This app’s goal is to offload some of that burden.
Celiacs are entitled to the incremental cost difference between gluten-free and non-gluten free products, but must submit receipts. This app digitizes receipts and stores, allowing users to review and calculate their gluten-free tax credit in one click.
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By: Lauren Pelley Staff Reporter, Published on Mon Apr 04 2016
During Justin Gravelle’s carefree college days, he often witnessed his girlfriend Rachel feeling ill for eight to 10 hours at a time thanks to a strange sickness with no clear cause. All the while, the young couple would go out drinking like typical university students — meaning Rachel was regularly consuming the one thing that, unbeknownst to her, was making her ill: gluten.
Rachel was later diagnosed with celiac disease and switched to a gluten-free diet. But then another challenge arose: She hoped to use the government’s gluten-free tax credit, — which entitles people with celiac disease to claim the incremental costs associated with purchasing typically-pricier gluten-free products — but, Gravelle says, keeping track of all the purchases throughout the year was “such a frustrating process.”
Now a Burlington-based chartered accountant, Gravelle decided to figure out a better way — and late last year, he released an app called Celitax to help people with celiac disease easily track their everyday gluten-free purchases.
The app — available for the iPhone now, with an Android version coming later — digitizes receipts and stores them inside the app, allowing users to review or download them at any time and calculate their gluten-free tax credit in one click.
It’s an organizational tool, like a fitness tracker, Gravelle says. And it works like this: Each time users go to the grocery store, they take a photo of their receipt, which is stored in the app for safe keeping. Next, they input their gluten-free purchases into self-created custom categories based on their purchasing habits. The government hasn’t set average prices for non-gluten-free foods, Gravelle says, so users have to input an estimate themselves so the app can calculate their tax credit.
Gluten-free items are typically three to four times more expensive than regular items with gluten, Gravelle says. People who are gluten-intolerant, and can provide the government with proof, such as a medical diagnosis of celiac disease, are entitled to the incremental cost difference between gluten-free and non-gluten free products. But tracking things can be a hassle. Typically, people keep piles of receipts throughout the year, then go through them at the end of the year and enter all their gluten-free purchases into a spreadsheet, Gravelle says.
Sue Newell, operations manager for the Canadian Celiac Association, agreed the tax credit can be frustrating for people coping with celiac disease. Tracking receipts is a lot of work, she says, and few people qualify for the credit.
“An app would be helpful if it could do something like easily keep track of what you purchased,” she says, adding she hasn’t tried the Celitax app.
Gluten-free purchases are not the only medical expense eligible for a tax credit. The Canada Revenue Agency lists dozens of eligible items and procedures, from bone marrow transplants to walking aids.
While the Celitax app only focuses on gluten-free products, Gravelle is still happy he’s created something that has the potential to help the nearly 1 per cent of Canada’s population coping with celiac disease.“You don’t need a massive corporation or deep pockets to make a big impact, so that’s why I’ve been really fascinated with apps and growing something like this, because you can impact so many people,” he says.