On February 10th the IRS reversed its previous standing on whether breastfeeding equipment qualifies for a tax deduction. What does that mean for mamas and their families? Maybe big tax savings in the year the baby is born. You can now use your flexible spending account to purchase items such as breast pumps and breast milk storage bags. Even If a mom does not use a flexible spending account, the items may still be tax deductible. According to Reuters reporters Linda Stern and Susan Heavey, “since most mothers incur this expense in the same year that they are also piling up expenses involved in pregnancy and childbirth, their total healthcare spending could put them over the top for the deduction.” Last year the IRS declined to include breastfeeding equipment under the premise that it was related to food and therefore a necessity. Medical equipment is covered under the tax code. The reversal comes after the IRS changed directions on this view, now considering breast pumps necessary for “for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman,” according to Douglas H. Shulman, the I.R.S. commissioner. Lucky for babies this “loophole” had been discovered.
What I find amazing is that the benefits of breastfeeding, including long-term long-lasting health benefits, were never part of this conversation. Not that advocates did not try, it just did not interest the IRS. Why would the benefits of breastfeeding, like a sharp reduction in the instances of asthma, not qualify as “preventative care?”