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Breast Pump Buyers Gain Tax Advantage in IRS Ruling

Breast pumps and associated supplies will be considered medical equipment eligible for the same tax breaks as contact-lens solution, bandages and prescription drugs, the Internal Revenue Service said.

U.S. taxpayers can seek reimbursement for the cost of pumps through pretax flexible spending arrangements and health savings accounts, effective immediately.

“Like obstetric care, they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman,” the IRS said in an announcement released today.

As with other medical expenses, such costs can be deducted if total medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. The deduction can be taken on 2010 returns; as a result of last year’s health care law, that threshold will increase to 10 percent in 2013.

Breast-feeding advocates, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, had been encouraging the IRS to change its previous position and make this ruling.

Health Benefits

O. Marion Burton, the group’s president, said breast feeding provides health benefits for women and their children.

“The IRS has finally acknowledged this medical fact, and we applaud them for changing their regulations accordingly,” he said in a statement.

Manufacturers of breast pumps include Amsterdam-based Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V., which makes the Avent brand. Shares traded in New York fell 0.13 percent today, to $31.84.

Energizer Holdings Inc. of St. Louis makes breast pumps under its Playtex brand. Its shares decreased 0.06 percent today, to $68.25.

Another large manufacturer, Medela Inc., is owned by a family in Switzerland, according to the company’s Web site.

Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, both Democrats, introduced bills in 2009 that would have made the same change that the IRS made today.

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