Posted by Fred Lake

Teacher's Guide to Deducting Educator Expenses

Teacher's Guide to Deducting Educator Expenses

Classroom decoration, books, additional teaching materials, party supplies, and occasional gifts are common classroom expenses for K-12 instructors. Do you have to bear the costs of these expenses? Most of the time, yes.

But there is also a tax deduction for teachers to offset these expenses. Let's consider the basics of educator expense deductions here so you can understand how to maximize your tax deductions as a teacher.

What is the tax deduction for educator expenses?

Qualified instructors may be eligible for an educator fee tax deduction of up to $250. It increases up to $500 if an educator is married to another eligible educator and files under the status of married filing jointly (up to $250 per person combined)

Common materials for teachers who fall under the tax deduction include:

  • Complementary materials used in class

  • Educational books and manuals

  • Educational materials (such as pens, paper, crafts, etc.)

  • Industry-specific equipment

  • IT equipment, software, and cloud services.

  • Professional development courses related to the study program or student.

Can you deduct PPE expenses as an educator?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers are facing the front line of the virus. For this reason, many teachers question whether the costs of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other protective gear qualify for the educator expense deduction. The answer is yes. Under the 2020 tax exemption law, if the school does not reimburse a teacher, the teacher can deduct the following protection items:

  • Air purifiers

  • CDC certified masks and PPE

  • Chalk, paint, or tape to guide students towards social distance

  • Disposable gloves

  • Plexiglas or protective barriers

  • Soap and hand sanitizer

  • Surface disinfectant

These expenses must have occurred after March 12, 2020.

Who is qualified for educator tax deductions?

Before evaluating what educational material is included in the educator's deduction, you must first verify that this is what the IRS recognizes as an "eligible educator."

A "qualified educator" describes anyone who has the following roles for K-12 students:

  • Classroom assistant

  • Classroom instructor

  • Director

  • School counselor

  • Teacher

In addition to the above-listed duties, you must devote at least 900 hours during an academic year to elementary or higher education, as specified in the law of your state.

Unfortunately, the educator's expense deduction does not apply to home instructors or any college professor or teacher in a post-secondary learning environment.

Other limitations of the educator expenses deduction

There are additional limits on educator expenses that you should be aware of. The deduction may be reduced due to several factors:

  • The deduction is restricted to the sum of your teaching expenses greater than the interest earned on US savings bonds or Series EE if you exclude that interest from taxable income because it was used to pay investment fees for eligible graduate studies.

  • You must deduct the taxable benefits from the deduction used for your training or professional development courses, i.e., Coverdell Education savings account.

Where to claim an educator expense deduction

If you have determined that you are eligible to claim the educator's expenses deduction, do so using one of the following tax forms:

  • Form 1040 (standard federal income tax return), Schedule 1

  • Form 1040-NR (federal income tax return for expatriate teachers)

  • Form 1040-SR (Federal Income Tax Return for Seniors), Schedule 1

Help with tax incentives and other deductions for teachers

Claiming tax deductions can be difficult. If you need help, consult a tax professional. If you have additional questions about tax incentives for teachers, such as deductible 403 (b) Plan contributions, find out how you can work with a tax specialist such as FRED LAKE.



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