Tax Tips for Teachers: How to Deduct Classroom Expenses

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Even during these current times, teachers are still finding themselves paying out of pocket for classroom expenses, and for essential tools and materials needed to help teach their students properly.

The good news is that there are a few things that teachers can do to help lighten their financial load, such as taking advantage of the Educator Expense Tax Deduction.

It’s important to start documenting your expenses now so that you can be ready when it’s time to file your taxes.

Educator Expense Tax Deduction

In order to qualify for the Educator Expense Tax Deduction, teachers need to meet two criteria:

You worked a minimum of 900 hours at a school that is certified by a state to provide secondary or elementary education. This includes private, public, and religious schools.

You worked as an instructor, teacher, counselor, aide, or principal for students in grades K-12.

In other words, homeschooling parents, college, or post-secondary teachers cannot claim this deduction.

Qualifying Expenses for Educators

The items teachers can deduct using the Educator Expense Deduction include things such as:

  • School supplies
  • Books
  • Athletic equipment
  • Computer equipment
  • Computer software
  • Any item that is appropriate for and helpful to students

Keep in mind that you can only deduct classroom expenses if you haven’t already received reimbursement for them. If someone paid you back for those items, you cannot deduct them.

Claiming Tax Deductions

If teachers claim the Educator Expense Deduction, they can do so regardless of whether or not they choose to take the standard deduction, or if they itemize their tax deductions.

  • A teacher can deduct a maximum of $250.
  • Two married teachers can take a deduction of up to $250 apiece for a maximum of $500 if filing a joint return.

However, your deduction isn’t necessarily limited to $250, so make sure that you continue tracking your expenses. That’s because if you have expenses in access of $250, it can count as unreimbursed employee expenses.

You can deduct unreimbursed job expenses that exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income if you itemize.

These expenses can include outside-the-classroom costs that you paid from your own pocket, including investment costs, union dues and travel.

Reducing Educator Expense Deductions

There are certain circumstances where you may have to reduce your Educator Expense Deduction. You must subtract the following from your deduction, according to the IRS:

  • Distributions from 529 plans that you didn’t report as income.
  • Interest on U.S. savings bonds that you received tax-free because you used the money to pay for higher education.
  • Tax-free withdrawals from Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.