When teachers are setting up their classrooms for the new school year, it’s common for them to pay for a portion of their classroom supplies out of pocket. Fortunately, a special tax break allows the educators of our nation to deduct some of those expenses. And under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), understanding this deduction is especially important.
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The Educator Expense Deduction is an important tax mechanism for educators across the United States. Before you ask “How much can I claim for educator expenses?” though, it’s important to understand that there are two criteria that must be met before qualifying for this tax break:
The reason these two criteria exist is to make certain primary and secondary education professionals can take advantage of this tax break. The first requirement prevents college professors and other post-secondary educators from qualifying. The second ensures that homeschooling parents are unable to qualify for the Educator Expense Deduction.
So, can teachers deduct expenses? Yes, they can. However, if you’re a teacher, you must know what expenses you can claim and how much you can claim if you want to get the most out of your income taxes.
From 2018 through 2025, the TCJA has suspended miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) floor.
Fortunately, qualifying educators can still deduct some of their unreimbursed out-of-pocket classroom costs under the educator expense deduction. Qualifying elementary and secondary school teachers and other eligible educators (such as counselors and principals) can deduct up to $250 of qualified expenses.
If you’re married to someone who is also an educator, you may deduct up to $500 in educator expenses from your income taxes. That said, neither party may deduct more than $250 each.
In most cases, yes. Items eligible for the Educator Expense Deduction include:
Keep in mind that you can only receive a teachers tax credit for these items if you have not been reimbursed for the money you’ve spent on them. So if your school, teacher’s union, or another party paid you back for these expenses, you will not be able to deduct it.
Through 2017, any educator expenses, including union dues, in excess of the $250 threshold could have qualified as “unreimbursed employee expenses.” New tax reforms have changed that. Now, for tax years 2018 through 2025, educators can no longer deduct union dues.
There are rules for deducting expenses for your home office, however. These rules are strict, too. For example, a home office must be used solely for work purposes, which may be a difficult requirement to meet.
As an educator, you may be able to deduct expenses associated with continuing education. Again, you must meet certain requirements in order to do this.
In order to deduct expenses associated with continuing education as an educator, those expenses must be for education that maintains or enhances your job skills, or education that, by law, you must complete in order to maintain your occupation. However, this education is not allowed to be part of a program that may qualify you for a new line of work. Specific continuing education expenses that you’re allowed to deduct may include:
The TCJA has made significant changes to tax deductions that may be available to you as an educator. It’s crucial to stay up to date on these changes, but it can be tough to do it all yourself. If you have any questions or need help finalizing your teacher tax deduction list for the coming tax year, contact our Chicago-area office today.