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National Consumers League hails IRS policy turnaround on deductibility of breast pumps

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February 10, 2011
Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC--The National Consumers League today is hailing the reversal of policy by the Internal Revenue Service on breast pumps as a “great day for mothers, babies, and for advances for our nation’s health care.” Referring to this morning’s IRS Announcement 2011-14, advising the public that “expenses for breast pumps and other supplies that assist lactation may be deducted as medical expenses or reimbursed under a flexible spending arrangement or similar plan,” NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg made the following statement:

“Today is a great day for mothers, babies, and for advances for our nation’s health care. We appreciate the care and attention the IRS devoted to the concerns expressed by the NCL, the American Academy of Pediatrics, members of Congress and many other groups who argued forcefully about the need to reimburse for breast pumps. We need to do all that we can to encourage mothers to breastfeed. This new Announcement gets all federal policy on the same page.”

Last fall, Greenberg wrote a letter to the IRS after the tax agency’s determination that breast pumps often used by working mothers wouldn’t be deductible as a medical expense under flexible spending rules. Greenberg’s letter pointed to overwhelming medical evidence that breastfeeding provides critical, long-term health benefits to babies and mothers alike.

According to today’s IRS announcement, the agency has concluded that breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are classified as medical care under Section 213(d) of the Tax Code because, like obstetric care, they are used for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman.  Therefore, if the remaining requirements of Section 213(a) are met (for example, the taxpayer’s total medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income), expenses paid for breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are now to be considered deductible medical expenses.

Amounts reimbursed for these expenses under flexible spending arrangements, Archer medical savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, or health savings accounts are not considered to be income to the taxpayer, according to the IRS. The IRS plans to revise Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses, to include this information.

The decision was also hailed by a group of four lawmakers who, along with 41 others, had written to IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman last November asking him to reverse the IRS decision. Those members of Congress also issued statements today.

“Today’s decision is a huge victory for nursing mothers everywhere,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Carolyn B. Maloney, (D-NY), and Sen. Jeff Merkley, (D-Ore.), and Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa). “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. We thank the IRS for their careful consideration and quick response.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.