No travel tax breaks for substitute teachers

National Post


If you’re an employee who drives to work, you’re probably well aware that you can’t write off the cost of getting to and from work as a legitimate employment expense.

Under the Income Tax Act, employees can only deduct amounts personally paid for travel if they are “ordinarily required to carry on the duties of the office or employment away from the employer’s place of business or in different places” and their employer does not reimburse them for those expenses.

In addition, you need your employer’s acknowledgment on a certified Form T2200 that you were indeed required to pay those expenses.

Recently, the CRA was asked whether a school board should be issuing Form T2200 to employees who are substitute teachers to allow them to deduct motor vehicle expenses incurred when travelling to the various schools under the board’s jurisdiction.

The board, in its letter to the CRA, stated that it does not require its employees to have a driver’s licence nor does it reimburse substitute teachers for any mileage or vehicle expenses with respect to travel to the various schools. It acknowledged, however, that it’s not uncommon for the employee to receive short notice with respect to the teaching assignment and have only thirty minutes to reach the assigned school, implying that without a vehicle, it may be impossible for a teacher to reach the designated school in time.

While an employer is required to certify on Form T2200 that the necessary conditions of employment have been met, the employer is not required to actually determine whether the expenses are tax deductible. That being said, the CRA stated that it would only expect an employer to issue the form “where an employee has reasonable grounds to make such claims.”

One of the conditions to make such a claim is that the employee was ordinarily required to carry on the duties of the office or employment away from the employer’s place of business. But where is a substitute teacher’s place of business?

The CRA stated that when a substitute teacher is hired by a school board to teach at any one of the schools under its jurisdiction, the employer’s place of business is considered to be the particular school at which the substitute teacher has been assigned to teach on any particular day.

As a result, since on any given day a substitute teacher is assigned to one particular school, the requirement to work away from the employer’s place of business is not met and thus a substitute teacher can’t claim any travel expenses nor should the board certify Form T2200 for its substitute teachers.

Curiously, a judge in a 2009 case found a substitute teacher’s travel expenses to indeed be deductible because the “employer’s place of business … was the … board’s… offices and not the individual schoolrooms that (he) attended from day-to-day.”

Clearly the CRA has not accepted this decision, which was heard under the informal procedure of the Tax Court and as a result, is not legally precedential.