Last July, I wrote about the FLSA’s changes that mandated a break for mothers who are breast feeding to be able to express milk. Last week, the IRS changed a long standing policy, at the urging of many groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, and will allow a tax deduction for breast pumps and other lactation supplies. In a letter from the Commissioner of the IRS, effective for the 2010 tax year, the IRS will treat breast pumps and other supplies that assist lactation to be "medical care" and their costs will qualify as deductible medical expenses and will also qualify as medical expenses reimbursable under a flexible health spending account. The New York Times reported that a Harvard Medical School study conducted last year showed "that if 90 percent of mothers followed the standard medical advice of feeding infants only breast milk for the first six months, the United States could save $13 billion a year in health care costs and prevent the premature deaths of 900 infants each year from respiratory illness and other infections."
Practice pointer. Employers should continue to be aware of the FLSA’s requirement for mandatory breaks for mothers to express milk while at work. With the reversal of the IRS’s position, more mothers may begin or continue to breast feed longer since the cost of the equipment is now deductible or reimbursable under a flexible health spending account.