Fact-Check: Can Billionaires Get Tax Deductions on Private Jets

(PolitiFact.com) - New York congressional candidate Melanie D’Arrigo: “Teachers can only deduct up to $250 for school supplies on their taxes, but billionaires can write off the entire cost of a private jet.”

PolitiFact's ruling: Mostly True

Here's why: A tweet from a New York congressional candidate contrasting federal tax write-offs available to teachers with write-offs available to people who can buy private jets spread quickly, garnering 23,500 retweets and 91,700 likes. 

"Teachers can only deduct up to $250 for school supplies on their taxes, but billionaires can write off the entire cost of a private jet," wrote Melanie D’Arrigo, a Democrat from Long Island running in the 3rd Congressional District. "This is what it looks like when laws are written by millionaires, funded by billionaires. Unrig the system. Elect a working class Congress."

Are the facts in D’Arrigo’s tweet about the deductions - seen by her as an inequity in the tax code - correct? 

Teachers are allowed to deduct $250 for supplies they purchase out-of-pocket for use in the classroom, even if they don’t itemize deductions, according to the Internal Revenue Service. In the 2022 tax year, that figure increases to $300.

As for private jets, the tax code allows for deduction of the full cost of a private aircraft, new or used, if used predominantly for business. However, the deduction provided for in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is subject to complicated rules and penalties

The cost of purchasing a private plane can be deducted by a business that owns the plane, said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute. If the plane is used only for business purposes, it can be expensed or written off in the year that it is acquired, Gleckman said. If the plane is used for both business and personal uses, it generally can be written off over a period of years. If it has only personal uses, there is no write-off, experts said.

Lawyers at the New York City-based firm Pillsbury who counsel high net-worth families warn that the rules are strict and complex. "Given the complexity of the rules and the dollar amounts at stake, in the year of acquisition the aircraft should not be used for any personal, non-business use and, to the greatest extent possible, the taxpayer should avoid any possible entertainment or commuting use." 

Erica York, an economist at the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit that supported the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and prefers a simpler tax code, told us that costs of doing business, such as physical assets with a useful life of 20 years or less, like an aircraft, can be deducted in the year the purchase occurs, but they are subject to complicated rules. 

The aircraft must be used predominantly for business use in any taxable year, and there are regulations on entertainment use as well as penalties and what are known as recapture provisions if the requirements around business use are not met, York said. When the business sells the aircraft, it would owe depreciation recapture taxes at ordinary tax rates on the gain from selling the asset, she said. 

The D’Arrigo campaign declined to comment on the record. 

Our ruling

D’Arrigo said teachers can deduct up to $250 for school supplies on their taxes, but billionaires can write off the entire cost of a private jet.

The deduction for teachers who pay for classroom expenses with their own money is currently $250. 

Billionaires, or others who can afford a private jet, can write off the entire cost of an airplane in a single year, though the aircraft must be used for business purposes.

But not every billionaire’s purchase of a private airplane would qualify for a deduction under IRS rules. 

We rate this claim Mostly True.

By Jill Terreri Ramos
February 22, 2022


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