Deductible Expenses for Teachers

October 24, 2019 | Chelsea O'Shields

Fall break is over and it is back to school time.  For some of us, that means waiting behind buses again on our way into work or even waiting in a never-ending line to drop the kids of at school. For teachers; however, it means paying for more materials and supplies without receiving reimbursement. Fortunately, they may be able to deduct these expenses on their tax returns depending on the nature of the expense.

For the 2019 tax year, qualifying educators can deduct some of their out-of-pocket classroom purchases under the educator expense deduction. However, there are certain limits imposed on this special deduction, and some expenses can’t be written off.

The good news is this deduction is an “above-the-line” deduction which means than teachers do not have to itemize in order to take the deduction.

Educators can deduct up to $250 of qualifying expenses that were not reimbursed. In the case of two educators that are filing a joint return, the deduction limit is $500 but the taxpayers cannot deduct more than $250 each. The term “qualified expenses” covers the following:

  • Books
  • Supplies (markers, pens, paper, etc.)
  • Computer equipment, including software
  • Professional development courses
  • Any other materials used in the classroom

The expenses above must be unreimbursed expenses in order to qualify for the deduction. There are certain expenses an educator may incur that are considered “employee business expense” but do not meet the qualifications of an “educator expense”. These include out-of-town job-related courses or conferences. Following the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, employee business expenses can no longer be claimed as itemized deductions.

Qualified educators include kindergarten through grade 12 teachers, instructors, counselors, principals or teacher aides. The work requirement is 900 hours a school year and the school must provide elementary or secondary education as determined under state law.

Educators should keep receipts when they make eligible expenses noted above. They should note the date, amount, and purpose of each purchase so that their tax preparer may properly include these in the preparation of the return.

If you have any questions regarding qualifying expenses or how to report them, please call or email us.