Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Jenna Fischer at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival (Wikimedia commons) Jenna Fischer at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival (Wikimedia commons)

Jenna Fischer at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival (Wikimedia commons)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 27, 2017

Jenna Fischer of 'The Office' tweets outdated info on teacher tax deduction

Jenna Fischer, the actress best known as Pam on NBC’s The Office, prompted a bit of a Twitter tussle before Christmas.

"I can't stop thinking about how school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes...something they shouldn't have to pay for with their own money in the first place. I mean, imagine if nurses had to go buy their own syringes. #ugh," Fischer tweeted on Dec. 23.

The tweet attracted 66,000 retweets and 223,000 likes. (Fischer has about 750,000 followers.)

But the tweet was wrong, relying on an outdated proposal. (After this fact-check was posted, Fischer deleted the tweet; see "After the Fact" below.)

An existing provision in the tax code has allowed teachers to deduct eligible, unreimbursed classroom spending up to $250. The provision was expanded and made permanent in December 2015.

The tax bill unveiled by House Republicans in November would have scrapped the deduction. But amid an outcry from teachers and their allies -- we wrote about opposition from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., here -- it was stripped before the House and Senate passed identical versions of the bill and President Trump signed it on Dec. 22. (The Senate bill actually would have doubled the deduction, but that idea was rejected too.)

A number of Twitter users pointed this out, including one identified as Matt Rossetto, who snarked later that day that Fischer’s tweet "is 100% wrong, because the final bill KEPT this deduction, but 14,000 RT’s later..."

Fischer noticed Rossetto’s tweet and fired back, "It was capped at $250 which is woefully insufficient especially considering they shouldn't have to go out of pocket at all. #iloveteachers."

Some Twitter users, however, still found fault with Fischer, since $250 was always the limit for that particular deduction -- it was not lowered due to the new law. Rossetto, for instance, tweeted back, "It WAS $250 before the bill and hasn’t changed. If you’re going to grandstand, get it right."

Finally, on Christmas Day, Fischer returned to Twitter to acknowledge her critics.

She tweeted, "Thanks for your tweets! I had some facts wrong. Teachers surveyed by Scholastic in 2016 personally spent an average of $530 on school supplies for students. Teachers who worked at high-poverty schools spent an average of $672. The tax deduction was capped at $250."

Fischer didn’t explicitly acknowledge that the $250 limit existed before the Republican-backed bill, but she was right on the other statistics. They refer to a national survey of 4,721 public school educators for Scholastic by the firm YouGov in July and August 2016.

As of the time this article was published, however, Fischer’s initial correction tweet had garnered far less interest than her original one -- 830 retweets and about 6,600 likes.

Our ruling

Fischer tweeted that after enactment of the Republican tax bill, "school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes."

As numerous Twitter users pointed out, that is incorrect -- the newly signed tax bill does not affect the existing deduction for teacher expenses. Fischer later acknowledged that "I had some facts wrong" and deleted the tweet.

We rate her initial tweet False.

Share the Facts
2
1
7
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
False
After enactment of the Republican tax bill, "school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes."
a tweet
Saturday, December 23, 2017

Our Sources

Jenna Fischer, tweet, Dec. 23, 2017

Matt Rossetto, tweet, Dec. 23, 2017

Jenna Fischer, tweet, Dec. 23, 2017

Matt Rossetto, tweet, Dec. 23, 2017

Jenna Fischer, tweet, Dec. 25, 2017

Internal Revenue Service, "Topic Number: 458 - Educator Expense Deduction," accessed Nov. 7, 2017

Education Week, "$250 Teacher Tax Deduction Here to Stay in Final GOP Bill," Dec. 18, 2017

PolitiFact, "A closer look at the classroom-expenses deduction for teachers: How big is it?" Nov. 7, 2017

Scholastic, "Teacher and Principal School Report," 2016

Scholastic, "New Survey of Teachers and Principals Explores Barriers to Equity in Education and the Resources Needed to Support Students," Nov. 16, 2016

Fox News, "'The Office's' Jenna Fischer blasted over incorrect GOP tax bill tweet," Dec. 26, 2017

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Louis Jacobson

Jenna Fischer of 'The Office' tweets outdated info on teacher tax deduction

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up