The tax news just keeps getting better in the world of plastic surgery, especially for vaginoplasty patients. You’ll remember that just a year ago, there was a rumor that as part of the new proposed healthcare overhaul, Congress would try to pay for part of it with a tax on plastic-surgery procedures. This would have affected nearly all plastic-surgery procedures–certainly any that were deemed more cosmetic in nature and not a medical necessity.
But then a couple of months ago, that was nixed from the healthcare bill (and as of this writing, the entire bill is still up in the air, waiting for a final vote).
Fresh on that victory comes a ruling from the U.S. Tax Court that should be good news to women seeking a vaginoplasty, though not breast augmentation. That court has ruled that a woman who underwent transgender surgery is entitled to deduct the cost of the vaginoplasty from her taxes, along with her hormone therapy costs. The court said she was not entitled to deduct the cost of the breast augmentation.
The patient in the suit is now a woman named Rhiannon O‘Donnabhain. Prior to her vaginoplasty and hormone therapy, though, she was a Coast Guard officer named Robert Donovan, and a father of three before his procedure. At the time, Robert said he felt that he was actually a female, but trapped in a male’s body. He had a plastic surgeon help him through sex hormone therapy and gender reassignment. The surgeon also performed a breast augmentation to finish his transformation into a female.
The newly-female O’Donnabhain claimed $21,000 worth of deductions for the procedures, but the IRS denied these deductions. The Service said the procedures were cosmetic and could not be deducted.
The judge, Joseph Gale, didn’t buy it. He noted that most people in the psychiatric profession considers sex reassignment therapy a genuinely necessary treatment, and in no way a “cosmetic” procedure. In his ruling, Gale referred to a 7th Circuit Court ruling in which a judge called sex reassignment therapy a “cure” for the male transsexual.
This is good news, of course, for those seeking vaginoplasty as part of a sex-change procedure. But the implications could eventually go farther than this. Ideally, this would be the start of the courts, government, and yes, insurance companies, recognizing that there are legitimate medical reasons for vaginoplasty, beyond a mere aesthetic goal. One can only hope.