Teachers Books as Business Expenses

Can the tax office really deny the deduction of books, magazines, etc. which he needed for class? Is your Finanzamt really correct when it considers such expenses as belonging to the private sphere and therefore not deductible? Well, the Federal Fiscal Court told the tax office in its judgment of May 20, 2010 (re VI R 53/09) whether or not.


The teacher was employed in the city X to give classes on German, history, social science, and ethics. He also belonged to American Anthropological Society. In his tax return, he claimed following professional costs:


Costs for 37 books: 1,535.35 €
4 magazine subscriptions /storage box 210.96 €
Stationary, binding costs, etc. 405.60 €
Total 2,151.91 €

His tax office, however, only first accepted € 102. Upon extrajudicial appeal, the Finanzamt partially gave in and accepted now in total 50% of the costs. Beyond that the tax office denied deduction. It argued that the eligibility to deduct literature as professional will be determined as much as it is really used in school. When used for teaching the professional need of the literature is only then evident. The tax office considered the non-eligible part of the costs. Keep in mind, that private expenses are never eligible for tax deduction (§12 EStG).

The court held that also the teacher's means of labor are to be deducted following the general rules and are not subject to any discretion. What is a means of labor? Anything directly required to objectively support or enhance his employment or occur in performance of his professional assignments (§9 I 1 EStG). Ruling case law says that books are deductible when they are needed for education purposes. It is not allowed to deny a deduction when the majority of other citizens also read this or that book that have no professional need for the book or magazine. It depends exactly how in the individual case the book or magazine is used. Only when an objective perception shows that a book has absolutely no relevance for the teaching of this instructor may it be denied from deduction. When testing eligibility, not the total collection of books or magazines is to be considered but every single volume on its own.

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