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IRS answers AOA call to scrap discriminatory reference to ODs

April 30, 2012

Bending to AOA pressure, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that it will no longer use a discriminatory reference to doctors of optometry in its annual tax guidance documents.

After hearing directly from AOA Federal Relations Committee Chair Roger Jordan, O.D., IRS officials recently affirmed that the agency will now refer to “eye doctors” in its documents as both optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Previously, IRS guidance directed visually impaired individuals and tax preparers on their behalf to seek a certified statement from an “eye doctor or registered optometrist” in order to apply the higher standard deduction for blindness.

In a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, the AOA’s Dr. Jordan made clear that optometrists are, in fact, eye doctors licensed by state authorities to examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures.

Dr. Jordan also made clear that because optometrists are licensed by states the use of the term “registered” is both inappropriate and could lead to confusion by tax filers seeking a determination of blindness.

Additionally, at the urging of the AOA, the IRS has also taken appropriate steps to update its definition of blindness for purposes of tax deduction.

The IRS will no longer use the phrases “partly blind” or “partially blind” in its publications to convey the principle that total blindness (no sense of light in either eye) is not the required threshold for a higher standard deduction, and that some level of blindness qualifies as well.

In the same letter to the IRS, the AOA argued that these phrases have no diagnostic value for optometrists and ophthalmologists when determining blindness. The AOA suggested a remedy should match existing definitions found elsewhere in law.

IRS guidance will now use the phrase “not totally blind” to match similar references now found in U.S. Code.

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