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Friday, November 04, 2011

AT THE INTERSECTION OF MEDICINE AND TAX LAW

Medicine and tax law are two distinct fields. However, when tax law allows a deduction for expenditures relating to disease, tax lawyers and courts have to apply medical concepts.

Code §213 allows a deduction for medical expenses if paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease. Cosmetic surgery doesn’t come under his unless related to a congenital abnormality, personal injury, or a disfiguring disease.

Do expenses for hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery relate to a disease, so that they are deductible?

In O'Donnabhain, 134 TC 34 (2010), the Tax Court allowed the deduction for some of these items. It was able to do this by locating a disease – here, “sever gender identity disorder.” What likely tipped the scale was that such an order is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That is published by the American Psychiatric Association. In other words, it had enough scientific recognition to be a “disease.”

The Tax Court allowed deductions for expenses of hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery. However, expenses relating to breast augmentation surgery were found to be cosmetic only and therefore nondeductible. For some reason, below the belt surgery was deemed noncosmetic and above the belt surgery was cosmetic. We won’t dwell on the legitimacy of that distinction, nor the applicable mental images – the opinion does have something of an involved discussion of this issue.

The IRS initially opposed the Tax Court’s determination. However, it has now acquiesced and says it will follow the decision.

AOD 2011-03, 11/2/11

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