IRS says face masks, hand sanitizer are tax-deductible medical expenses

FILE - Woman using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The IRS said Friday that face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes bought to curb the spread of COVID-19 are tax-deductible medical expenses.

"The purchase of personal protective equipment, such as masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of coronavirus are deductible medical expenses," the agency said in a statement.

These amounts are also eligible to be paid or reimbursed under health flexible spending arrangements, health savings accounts, Archer medical savings accounts or health reimbursement rearrangements, the agency said.

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Under the newest guidance, taxpayers can deduct expenses for protective equipment if they have medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income and they itemized their tax returns.

Personal protective equipment includes face masks, disinfectants for use against COVID-19, hand soap, hand sanitizer and disposable gloves, the IRS said.

Federal tax season began on Feb. 12 and ends May 17,  one month later than usual in order to give the IRS additional time to process a backlog of paper returns from last year and incorporate a slew of tax code changes included in President Biden's American Rescue Plan.

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Last month, the IRS said that eligible teachers can deduct unreimbursed expenses for PPE purchased after March 12, 2020. Teachers could already deduct up to $250 for unreimbursed business expenses for classroom materials such as books and supplies, but the updated guidance expands that to include coronavirus-related costs.