General Knowledge Not Deductible

Post Date: 9/7/16
Last Updated: 9/7/16


Cross References
- Tanzi, T.C. Memo. 2016-148

The taxpayers were employed by Seminole State College. The husband taught math and communications classes as an adjunct professor, and the wife was employed as a campus librarian.

The husband holds a doctorate degree in communication. He explained at trial that individuals holing such terminal degrees bear a lifelong burden of developing knowledge, finding knowledge, exploring, and essentially self-educating. He testified that all expenses paid in adding to his general knowledge should be deductible as unreimbursed employee business expenses.

The taxpayers deducted as unreimbursed employee business expenses the cost of their internet, television, books, DVDs, and CDs.

The court said a taxpayer may deduct the cost of home internet service under IRC Section 162 if the expense is ordinary and necessary in the taxpayer’s trade or business. To the extent such expenses are personal, they are not deductible. The taxpayer argued his internet access contributed to increasing his general knowledge. Likewise, he argued that the cost of his books, CDs, and DVDs were necessary to expand his general knowledge and to be effective at his job.

The taxpayer admitted in court that he was aware of no university that requires professors to purchase these materials and services in carrying on their jobs.

The court said the pursuit of general knowledge does not seem like an ordinary and necessary business expense for a college professor. It is more in the nature of a personal expense. While the court agreed that the taxpayers spent significant time and resources educating themselves, such expenses are not ordinary and necessary for the trades of being a professor or a campus librarian. Rather, such expenses are nondeductible personal, living, or family expenses.
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