How to Use Your COVID-19 Mask to Get a Tax Break

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Benjamin Franklin in a mask on a $100 bill
Nataliia K /

Looking for a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic? Good luck. There is nothing redeeming about the lousy virus that has turned life upside down.

But as Mom always told us, you have to take those lemons and make lemonade. And the IRS has just given us the perfect opportunity to squeeze a little juice from the pandemic, albeit in a modest way.

If you purchased face masks or other protective products in the past year — and who didn’t? — those purchases are now eligible for reimbursement as medical expenses under the following plans:

  • Health savings account (HSA)
  • Health flexible spending arrangement (health FSA)
  • Archer medical savings account (Archer MSA)
  • Health reimbursement arrangement (HRA)

The IRS announced on Friday:

“The Internal Revenue Service issued Announcement 2021-7 today clarifying that 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.”

This isn’t the first time in the pandemic era that the federal government has broadened the guidelines for what qualifies as a medical expense for the plan types mentioned above.

Last year, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded the list of qualified medical expenses for those plans to include menstrual care products and over-the-counter products and medications.

For more, check out the IRS website.

Don’t have a health savings account? Maybe it’s time to start one if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan and otherwise qualify.

As we have pointed out in the past, there are few tax breaks as generous as an HSA. You can take a deduction for your contributions, the money grows tax-free, and you won’t owe taxes when you withdraw it if you spend it on qualified medical expenses.

In short, you will never owe taxes on this money in most cases.

If we’ve piqued your interest and you want to look for an HSA provider, consider Money Talks News partner Lively. MTN contributor Miranda Marquit talks about her experience with Lively in “3 Ways a Health Savings Account Can Improve Your Finances.”

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.