A teacher’s guide to the educator expense deduction

March 04, 2021 : H&R Block

Classroom decorations, books, supplemental learning materials, party supplies and occasional sweet treats are common classroom expenses for K-12 instructors. Do you have to front the costs of these expenses? A lot of times, yes.

But there’s also a teacher tax deduction available to help offset these expenses. Let’s cover the basics on educator expense deductions here so you can maximize your tax deductions as a teacher.

What’s the educator expense tax deduction?

Eligible instructors can qualify for an educator expense tax deduction of up to $250. It extends up to $500 if an educator is married to another eligible educator and filing under the status married filing jointly (up to $250 per person combined).

teacher deductionsCommon teacher classroom supplies that fit the tax deduction include:

  • Books and educational textbooks
  • Computer equipment, software, and cloud services
  • Industry-specific equipment
  • Instructional supplies (like pens, paper, craft goods, etc.)
  • Professional development courses related to curriculum or students
  • Supplementary materials used in the classroom

Can you deduct PPE expenses as a teacher?

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, teachers face the frontlines of the virus. Because of this, many teachers wonder if personal protective equipment (PPE) expenses and other protective materials qualify for the educator expense deduction. The answer is yes. Under the Tax Relief Act of 2020, if a teacher is not reimbursed by their school, they can deduct the following protective items:

  • Air purifiers
  • Chalk, paint, or tape to guide students to social distance
  • Surface disinfectant
  • Disposable gloves
  • Face masks and CDC-certified PPE
  • Hand soap and sanitizer
  • Plexiglass or protective barriers

The expenses must have been incurred after March 12, 2020.

Who’s eligible for teacher tax deductions?

Before assessing which teaching supplies fall under the educator expense deduction umbrella, you must first verify if you are what the IRS acknowledges as an “eligible educator.”

An “eligible educator” describes anyone in the following roles for kindergarten through 12th-grade students:

  • Teacher
  • Classroom instructor
  • School counselor
  • School principal
  • Classroom aide

In addition to the roles listed above, you must spend at least 900 hours within an academic year providing elementary or secondary education as specified under your state’s law.

Unfortunately, the educator expense deduction doesn’t apply to homeschooling instructors, or any college professor or instructor in post-secondary learning environments.

Other limitations of the educator expense deduction

There are a few additional limitations to the educator expense you should be mindful of. In fact, the deduction could be lowered due to a number of factors:

  1. You should subtract tax-advantaged funds used for your own personal schooling or professional development courses, such as a Coverdell education savings account from your deduction.
  2. The deduction is limited to the sum of your teaching expenses that is greater than the interest earned on Series EE or U.S. savings bonds if you’ve excluded this interest from your taxable income because it was used to pay for qualified higher education expenses.

Where to claim the educator expense deduction

If you have determined you’re eligible to claim the educator expense deduction, do so on one of the following tax forms:

Help with tax breaks for teachers–and other deductions

Claiming tax deductions can get complicated. If you need help, we’re here for you. If you have other questions about tax breaks for teachers—such deductible 403(b) Plan contributions —find out how you can work with one of our tax pros! With many ways to file your taxes, Block has your back.

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