Deducting travel expenses

Dear Tax Talk:
I am a teacher, and I want to know what kind of trips I could take that would be tax deductible. I teach earth science, so would trips to Red Rod Canyon in Sedona, Ariz., be deductible?


Dear Kathleen:
Unfortunately for teachers, the law was changed in 1987 to close an opportunity that had allowed a teacher to deduct travel as a form of education. It used to be that a teacher could justify a travel deduction as necessary to enhance their skills as a teacher when the travel was primarily motivated by personal reasons rather than required to improve their skills.

The regulations make two distinctions in deductible travel for a teacher:

1. A teacher travels to Russia on sabbatical to improve her language skills. This is travel as a form of education and is not deductible.
2. A teacher travels to Spain to take a course that is offered only at the University of Madrid. The teacher can take a deduction for the travel expense, since it relates to directly improving her skills.

Based on this, unless there is a formalized program of education involved in traveling to Red Rod Canyon, your trip would not be deductible, even though it may help you indirectly in your ability to teach earth science.