O'Donnabhain V. Commissioner - History

History

Rhiannon O'Donnabhain is a transgender woman who underwent sex reassignment surgery in 2001. She grew up in a devout Irish Catholic family in Boston and previously tried to conform to traditionally masculine roles, enrolling in the United States Coast Guard during the Vietnam War, working as a construction worker, marrying and fathering three children. Conflicted by gender identity issues, she divorced in 1992. In 1996, she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a condition recognized in the DSM-IV under which a person identifies as belonging to a different gender than the one usually corresponding to the sex they were assigned at birth, and feels significant discomfort or the inability to deal with this condition.

Under the supervision of her doctors and in accordance with the standard treatment regime, O'Donnabhain began taking hormonal therapy and came out to her family and coworkers as transgender. She changed her legal name and presented herself as female in her day-to-day life. In 2001, she completed her transition by undergoing sex reassignment surgery. After six weeks of recovery, she returned to work.

O'Donnabhain claimed a tax deduction for about $25,000 in costs related to her treatment. She initially received a full refund from the IRS, but after an audit, the IRS characterized her surgery as "cosmetic" and not "medically necessary", thus denying the deduction under 26 U.S.C. § 213(d)(9). The IRS demanded the refund back, and O'Donnabhain sued the IRS in Tax Court. Her case was taken by the Massachusetts-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the non-profit legal services organization that in 2003 won the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry (Goodridge v. Department of Public Health).

On Feb 2, 2010, O'Donnabhain won in Tax Court in an 11 to 5 decision reversing the IRS decision. On November 2, 2011, the IRS announced that it intends to issue a formal agreement, known as a "notice of acquiescence", with the Tax Court decision.

Read more about this topic:  O'Donnabhain V. Commissioner

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