In a reversal of long-standing policy, the IRS announced it will treat expenses for breast pumps and supplies that assist in lactation as deductible medical expenses (Announcement 2011-14). The IRS also said that amounts that taxpayers are reimbursed for these expenses under a flexible spending arrangement, Archer medical savings account, health reimbursement arrangement or health savings account will not be income to the taxpayer.
However, to be deductible, taxpayers’ total medical expenses must still meet the 7.5% of adjusted gross income threshold and other requirements of Sec. 213.
The announcement does not offer an analysis of the IRS’ reasoning or explain why it changed its position. It simply states that breast pumps and supplies that assist in lactation “are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman,” and therefore are deductible under Sec. 213(d). Previously, the IRS characterized breast pumps as “merely beneficial to general health, but are not for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body” (letter from Gregory F. Jenner, acting assistant secretary (Tax Policy) (6/8/04)).
As recently as May 2009, the IRS position was that “[i]t is not within the authority of the Internal Revenue Service to classify breastfeeding equipment as medical care in contravention of current law. A change to the Internal Revenue Code must be made by Congress” (IRS Information Letter 2010-0173 (5/23/09)).
In the announcement, the IRS stated its intention to update Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses, to reflect this change.