Tax Breaks for Educators
With the fall semester of the school year well underway, teachers, administrators and aides should not forget to keep track of education-related expenses that could help reduce their taxes, when they file their returns next spring. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three key work-related tax benefits that are available to educators.
Educators can take advantage of tax deductions for qualified expenses related to their profession. The costs many educators incur out-of-pocket include items such as classroom supplies, training and travel.
There are two methods educators can choose for deducting qualified expenses: Claiming the educator expense deduction (up to $250) or, for those who itemize their deductions, claiming eligible work-related expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
A third key benefit enables many teachers and other educators to take advantage of various education tax benefits for their ongoing educational pursuits, especially the lifetime learning credit or, in some instances depending on their circumstances, the American opportunity tax credit.
Educator Expense Deduction
Educators can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each) of unreimbursed business expenses. The educator expense deduction is available even if an educator doesn’t itemize deductions. To do so, the taxpayer must be a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide for at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law.
Those who qualify can deduct costs like 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.
Itemizing Deductions Using Schedule A
Often, educators have qualifying classroom and professional development expenses that exceed the $250 limit. In that case, the IRS encourages them to claim these excess expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040). In addition, educators can claim other work-related expenses, such as the cost of subscriptions to professional journals, professional licenses and union dues. Transportation expenses may also be deductible in situations such as where an educator assigned to teach at two different schools needs to drive from one school to the other during the day.
Miscellaneous deductions of this kind are subject to a 2% limit. This means that a taxpayer must subtract 2% of their adjusted gross income from the total qualifying miscellaneous deduction amount. For more information, see Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions or call our office for assistance.
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 and supporting documents for at least three years. Copies of tax returns may be needed for many reasons, including responding to an IRS inquiry.
Questions about Tax Breaks for Educators?
Don’t hesitate to call our office, if you have any questions about tax breaks available to educators, including teachers, administrators and aides.