Educator Expenses Tax Deduction

Educator Expenses Are Tax Deductible

Teacher in front of class
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If you’re a teacher and you’ve paid for classroom supplies or other materials out of your own pocket—and many do—the Internal Revenue Service allows you to can claim these expenses as a tax deduction. It’s an adjustment to income so it’s an “above the line” deduction on line 23 of your Form 1040.

This is particularly advantageous. You have to itemize to claim it and it reduces your adjusted gross income which you’ll ultimately pay taxes on after your take the standard deduction and claim any tax credits for which you might be eligible.

But you can itemize other deductions if you choose—you're not limited to taking the standard deduction because you've claimed the above-the-line deduction for educator expenses. 

Deduction Limits

As of the 2016 tax year, you can claim up to $250 of money you've spent on classroom expenses for supplies such as materials, books and software. If both you and your spouse are educators, you can each claim up to $250 in expenses for $500 total on a joint tax return.

Classroom expenses in excess of these limits can be deducted as employee business expenses, but this is a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to a threshold of 2 percent of your adjusted gross income—you can only deduct total work-related expenses that exceed this amount. 

Congress renews the educator expenses deduction yearly and it has been indexed for inflation, so it can be expected to increase incrementally in future tax years.

Qualifications for the Deduction 

You must be a teacher, aide, instructor, counselor or principal to qualify for the deduction, and you must have worked in a school certified by your state for at least 900 hours during the school year. Only grade school and high school educators qualify, but it can be a public, private or religious school.

Costs incurred from homeschooling your children doesn't qualify—you're not recognized by your state as an educational institution. 

What Expenses Can Be Deducted

Most things you spend money on as an educator qualify for the deduction, provided you bought them for use in your classroom and your school, teacher’s union or anyone else has not reimbursed you for them. They must be “ordinary and necessary.” This means they're items commonly accepted and used in a classroom.

It’s a good idea to keep a file dedicated to these expenses so you can save receipts and make notes as to what you purchased and why. Some common deductible expenses include:

  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Computer equipment, software and services
  • Supplementary materials used in the classroom
  • Athletic equipment if used by physical education teachers
  • Professional development courses beginning in 2016

If you use tax-advantaged funds to pay for your schooling, you must subtract these amounts from the deduction you’ve claimed. 

More Information:

Additional information about the educator expenses deduction can be found at the following websites:

NOTE: Tax laws change periodically, and you should consult with a tax professional for the most up-to-date advice. The information contained in this article is not intended as tax advice and is not a substitute for tax advice.  

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