Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The IRS is Finally Recognizing the Benefits of Breastfeeding

Last October the IRS ruled that nursing mothers will not be allowed to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts (FSA or Cafeteria 125 plans) to pay for breast pumps and other supplies.  The Internal Revenue Service came to this decision because they determined that breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care.

Despite numerous studies, including one recent study that found it could prevent the premature death of 900 babies a year, showing that the antibodies found in beast milk could reduce disease among infants.  Another  large study, done by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren't breastfed.

Apparently lowering the risk of SIDS and reducing diseases in infants is not "a form of medical care" but denture cream and acne cream is. 

The IRS has denied a request from the American Academy of Pediatrics to reclassify breast-feeding costs as  "medical care expenses" instead  it remained classified as “nutritional”.  The IRS stated that breastfeeding does “not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care” therefore breastfeeding expenses are not covered.

Following the October determination, to continue to exclude breastfeeding supplies, 13 members of the United States Senate and 34 members of Congress signed letters (one from each the Senate and Congress) addressed to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Douglas Shulman, urging him to change the ruling.

I am please to announce that last week the IRS reversed their ruling.  This means that now Breast pumps and other lactation supplies are now tax deductible as medical expenses.

What does this mean for nursing mothers?  It means that families can use pre-tax funds from their flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts for these supplies.  If you do not have a FSA or HSA plan, you can deduct breast-feeding costs if your total unreimbursed medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income and you itemize.

Finally a big step towards supporting breastfeeding.



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