Educators can take advantage of tax deductions for qualified out-of-pocket expenses related to their profession such as classroom supplies, training, and travel. As such, as the new school year begins, teachers, administrators, and aides should remember to keep track of education-related expenses that could help reduce the amount of tax owed next spring.
Prior to tax reform, educators could choose one of two methods for deducting qualified expenses: Claiming the Educator Expense Deduction (up to $250) or, for those who itemized their deductions, claiming eligible work-related expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
Taxpayers should note, however, that under tax reform, miscellaneous itemized deductions are no longer deductible for tax years 2018 through 2025.
Teachers and other educators can also take advantage of various education tax benefits for ongoing educational pursuits such as the Lifetime Learning Credit or, in some instances depending on their circumstances, the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
How the Educator Expense Deduction Works
Educators can deduct up to $250 of unreimbursed business expenses. If both spouses are eligible educators and file a joint return, they may deduct up to $500, but not more than $250 each. The educator expense deduction is available even if an educator doesn't itemize their deductions. To take advantage of this deduction, the taxpayer must be a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide for at least 900 hours during a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law.
Those who qualify can deduct costs of books, supplies, computer equipment and software, classroom equipment, and supplementary materials used in the classroom. Expenses for participation in professional development courses are also deductible. Athletic supplies qualify if used for courses in health or physical education.
Educators should keep detailed records of qualifying expenses noting the date, amount, and purpose of each purchase. This will help prevent a missed deduction at tax time. Taxpayers should also keep a copy of their tax return for at least three years. Copies of tax returns may be needed for many reasons. A tax transcript summarizes return information and includes adjusted gross income and are available free of charge from the IRS.
Questions about tax deductions for educators?
Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions about tax deduction available to educators including teachers, administrators, and aides.