October 19, 2021

Medical expenses

No, You Can’t Deduct a Harley as a Medical Expense

“A client injured his wrists, so the doctor told him to keep his wrists elevated. He asked me if he purchased a Harley with those high handlebars, can he deduct that as a medical expense? I told him to show me the prescription from the doctor.” — Lawrence Pon, CPA, told the Washington Post when […]

IRS to Allow Deduction of Medical Expenses for Those Diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder

When nature makes a mistake, it can be expensive to repair. Rhiannon O’Donnabhain long suspected that nature had mistakenly assigned him to the wrong team, and after growing up male, fathering three children, and getting divorced, looked into fixing that. A diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) was reached, and the process began.


There was a lot involved. The Tax Court says the process included:

– 20 weekly individual therapy sessions.
– Hormone therapy
– facial surgery
– genital surgical sex reassignment
– breast augmentation surgery

This process continued under the watchful (but not free) observation of a therapist.

Now female, O’Donnabhain deducted $21,741 in medical expenses related to the reassignment on her 2001 return. The IRS objected, but the Tax Court upheld her medical deductions for all but the breast augmentation (they said that was cosmetic, not medical).

The expert testimony also establishes that given (1) the risks, pain, and extensive rehabilitation associated with sex reassignment surgery, (2) the stigma encountered by persons who change their gender role and appearance in society, and (3) the expert-backed but commonsense point that the desire of a genetic male to have his genitals removed requires an explanation beyond mere dissatisfaction with appearance (such as GID or psychosis), petitioner would not have undergone hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery except in an effort to alleviate the distress and suffering attendant to GID. Respondent’s contention that petitioner undertook the surgery and hormone treatments to improve appearance is at best a superficial characterization of the circumstances that is thoroughly rebutted by the medical evidence.

Now the IRS has changed its mind. In an Action on Decision published yesterday the IRS said that they will follow the Tax Court’s decision and will allow gender reassignment costs as a medical deduction for diagnosed GID.

Unfortunately, there still is no known medical fix for Accountants Personality Disorder. Medicine remains helpless to treat the many rock stars trapped in CPA personalities.

Tax Season Quiz: Which Item on This Receipt Is a Deductible Medical Expense?

This comes from a tax professional in the throes of a hectic day. Personally, I’m stumped.

So we’ve got:

A) Feminine hygiene products
B) Starkist Tuna
C) Orbit gum

Arguments for any or all are now being heard.

IRS: Okay, Fine, Breast Pumps Are Medical Expenses

Apparently Doug Shulman & Co. have backed off the idea that a mother’s milk simply promotes a baby’s nutrition (which is a necessity not a medical condition) akin to orange juice preventing scurvy.

Breast pumps and other lactation supplies are now tax deductible as medical expenses, the Internal Revenue Service said on Thursday, February 10, reversing a long-held position. The new ruling means that families can use pre-tax funds from their flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts for these supplies. Breast pumps typically cost more than $200 and, along with supplies, can run as high as $1,000 in the first year of a baby’s life.

Breast-feeding supplies deductible, IRS rules [Reuters]

Earlier:
What Does the IRS Have Against Boobs?

Just So You’re Aware: The IRS Won’t Allow You to Deduct Your Pot as a Medical Expense

Apparently there’s been a bit of unnecessary confusion out there about the deductibility of marijuana for medical purposes. The Wall St. Journal article that we linked to this morning discusses the problems employers are encountering wie.g. can’t use HSA funds; they don’t care if you’ve got a card, if you test positive you’re fired).

But the question of deducting the cost of your White Widow et al. that you legally purchase in states like California and Colorado has been making the rounds. After a little discussion, it’s pretty clear that the IRS is not going allow you deduct your pot for tax purposes simply because it’s still illegal at the Federal level. Doctor’s note be damned.


The confusion arose due to the following letter that was sent to New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who had sent a letter to the IRS inquiring about a constituent using a “herb” to treat migraine headaches:

Pot

Talk about a vague response from the IRS. Tax Girl explains:

As with many facets of how to treat medical marijuana for tax and other purposes, it appears that those in charge are merely tiptoeing around the question. In the letter, the term “marijuana” is never used explicitly – the term used is “herb”. While it’s my understanding that the specifics of the case involved medical marijuana used for the treatment of migraines, that isn’t specifically stated in the sanitized version of the letter. No use of “marijuana”, just the term “herb.” That could be St. Johns Wort or milk thistle as far as the IRS is concerned.

Fortunately TaxProf Paul Caron clears up for us in a couple of updates from his latest post on this issue:

Update #2: Rev. Rul. 97-9, 1997-1 CB 77, specifically precludes a medical expense deduction for medical marijuana:

An amount paid to obtain a controlled substance (such as marijuana) for medical purposes, in violation of federal law, is not a deductible expense for medical care under § 213. This holding applies even if the state law requires a prescription of a physician to obtain and use the controlled substance and the taxpayer obtains a prescription.

So the IRS in Info. 2010-0080 either was (1) signalling a retreat from its position in Rev. Rul. 97-9 by not mentioning the federal legality of the substance; (2) implicitly referring only to legal herbs (and hence not covering marijuana).

Update #3: I am told by an enterprising reporter that the herb in question in Info. 2010-0080 is Petadolex, so it appears that interpretation #2 above controls and the conclusion in Rev. Rul. 97-9 denying a medical expense deduction for medicial marijuana still obtains.

So there you have it. Regardless if you have glaucoma, cancer, HIV, chronic pain, high anxiety or any ailment that marijuana can effectively alleviate, don’t bother trying to include it on Schedule A. We’d ask the IRS to implore a little common sense here but legally, as long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level that’s not going to happen. And from a more practical standpoint, we’re still talking about the IRS.

Don’t Bogart That Deduction: Is Medical Marijuana a Medical Expense? [TaxProf Blog]
Just Say No: Pot Not Allowed as Medical Expense [Tax Girl]

Sex Change Expenses Are Deductible but You’re on Your Own for the C Cup

He seemed to have it all — a wife, three kids, a successful career. But it wasn’t enough. What he really wanted was another X chromosome. Our taxpayer, explains the Tax Court, “was uncomfortable in the male gender role from childhood and first wore women’s clothing secretly around age 10…discomfort regarding her gender intensified in adolescence…[The taxpayer] was a female trapped in a male body, and continued to secretly wear women’s clothing.”

So our taxpayer consulted a licensed social worker, which is apparently how these things are done, and after suitable counseling, decided to try on XX for size. The first steps down the path the the Misses Department seemed to suit the taxpayer, so he took the next big leap. $21,741 of surgical and related expenses later, the taxpayer was Ms. Rhiannon O’Donnabhain.


The Tax Court got involved when she deducted these expenses on her 2001 tax return. The IRS said that the expenses were not “medical” expenses under Sec. 219. It would be an unusual man who would undergo this sort of thing absent dire medical need: “The procedures that Dr. Meltzer carried out included surgical removal of the penis and testicles and creation of a vaginal space using genital skin and tissue.”

It took 139 pages and 4 separate opinions, but the Tax Court agreed that the gender reassignment surgery is a deductible medical expense. It’s surprising that it was so difficult, considering that the court is largely composed of men who wear dresses at work. But they felt it was necessary to go into the sort of privacy-killing detail that makes taxpayers think twice before spurning an appeals offer and going to Tax Court (oh, you mean you’re that Rhiannon O’Donnabhain!):

Petitioner, anticipating the formal recommendations for her surgery, went for a consultation and examination by Dr. Meltzer in June 2001 at his offices in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Meltzer concluded that petitioner was a good candidate for sex reassignment surgery. Dr. Meltzer’s notes of his physical examination of petitioner state: “Examination of her breasts reveal [sic] approximately B cup breasts with a very nice shape.”

Nice enough for government work, anyway. The Court ruled that while the hormone therapy, vaginoplasty, feminizing facial surgery and penis and testicle removal were deductible, breast augmentation was, well, too much:

given the contemporaneous documentation of the breasts’ apparent normalcy and the failure to adhere to the Benjamin standards’ requirement to document breast-engendered anxiety to justify the surgery, we find that petitioner’s breast augmentation surgery did not fall within the treatment protocol… Instead, the surgery merely improved her appearance.

So if the Tax Court’s view holds up on appeal, you can deduct the cost of changing sides, but if that’s not enough to make you sufficiently hot, you’re on your own.