Kick the Habit

By Lynch, Michael | Journal of Accountancy, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Kick the Habit


Lynch, Michael, Journal of Accountancy


At the same time Congress has pressed for antitobacco legislation and settlements against cigarette manufacturers, the IRS has been denying the deductibility of stop-smoking programs. In revenue ruling 79-162 (1979-1 CB 116), the IRS held that a taxpayer who had no specific ailment or disease could not deduct participation in a smoking-cessation program as a medical expense.

However, it also held that treatment for addiction to certain substances qualified as medical care: for example, alcoholism (revenue ruling 73-325) and drug addiction (revenue ruling 72-226). In response to a recent report by the Office of the Surgeon General, which concluded nicotine is an addictive drug and determined strong causal links between smoking and several diseases, the IRS reversed its twenty-year-old position. It held smokers could deduct the unreimbursed costs of smoking-cessation programs and the cost of prescription drugs designed to alleviate nicotine withdrawal (revenue ruling 99-28, 1999-25 IRB). However, smokers still can't deduct the cost of nonprescription drugs designed to help them stop smoking, for example, nicotine gum or patches.

Revenue ruling 99-28 analyzed the following scenarios. Two smokers, Alice and Bruce, wanted to quit smoking. Alice participated in a smoking-cessation program and purchased nicotine gum and patches that did not require a prescription. Alice had not been diagnosed as having any specific disease, and no physician suggested she participate in a stop-smoking program. …

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