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IRS Rules Breastfeeding Supplies Tax Deductible

Andrew McCaul

Good news for nursing moms and their families: the Internal Revenue Service reversed itself and announced earlier today that breast pumps and other lactation supplies will be considered tax-deductible medical expenses. According to Reuters, lactation supplies can run as high as $1000 in the first year of a baby’s life, including the typical cost of a breast pump ($200 or more). The announcement follows last month’s “Call to Action to Support Breast-Feeding,” issued by the U.S. surgeon general, Regina M. Benjamin.
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The new ruling means that families can use pre-tax funds from flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts to cover these costs. For women without flexible spending accounts, the cost of a pump will be tax deductible if their total medical costs exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (that threshold will increase to 10 percent in 2013, as a result of last year’s health care law). 

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics asked the IRS to allow such a deduction, but its request was initially denied; at the time, the IRS stated that breastfeeding didn’t have enough health benefits to qualify as medical or preventative care, and that it considered breast pumps to be feeding equipment, not medical devices. Today, the agency said in a statement, “Like obstetric care, [lactation supplies] are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman.”
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The IRS’ reversal was hailed by a group of four lawmakers (Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa) who had written to IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman last November, along with 41 others, urging him to reverse the agency’s earlier stance. They released the following statement:

"Today's decision is a huge victory for nursing mothers everywhere. Modern medicine has documented numerous health benefits linked to breastfeeding, including a reduced risk of illness in infants and a reduced risk of cancer in mothers. And because breastfeeding is so effective in preventing disease, it also happens to save billions in health care costs."