Happy World Teachers’ Day! While our little girl is enjoying her first big school break (she’s in year-round), many families are just starting their school year. Plenty of teachers are back to work, giving their best to their students and schools. We have several relatives who are teachers, counselors, and school support staff. Each of them works hard to make sure their kids are getting the best from them.
While teaching is a very noble profession, sometimes it can be difficult and, at times, financially draining. However, the good news is that there are some tax benefits teachers may qualify for. For all the teachers out there, here are a few that can lighten your financial load.
1. Educator Expense Deduction
It’s common for many teachers to pay out of their pocket for a portion of their classroom supplies, and purchases here and there throughout the year can quickly add up. However, you may be able to deduct some of these expenses!
For the first time since 2002, the educator expense deduction increased and starting in 2022 eligible teachers can deduct up to $300 ($250 for tax year 2021) in unreimbursed classroom expenses. If you and your spouse are both teachers and are filing jointly, you can deduct $600 ($500 for tax year 2021) (but not more than $300 for each of you). To qualify, you have to:
- Be a K-12 teacher, counselor, principal, or aide.
- Work a minimum of 900 hours at a state-certified school. Both public and private school educators qualify.
Expenses that are deductible:
- Books, supplies and other materials used in your classroom.
- Equipment, including computer equipment, software and services.
- COVID-19 protective items to stop the spread of the disease in the classroom such as hand soap, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.
- Professional development courses related to the curriculum you teach or the students you teach. But note, the IRS recommends that you use other educational tax credits like the Lifetime Learning Credit which we will discuss next.
Make sure you keep all of your receipts (better yet, scan them and have a digital copy!) so you can deduct the correct amount when it’s time to file taxes.
2. Lifetime Learning Credit & Union Dues
If you’re taking classes, you may also get to take advantage of the Lifetime Learning Credit for your tuition, books, and necessary equipment. If you qualify you can claim up to $2,000 per tax return.
If you pay union dues, you do not get to deduct them through the educator expense deduction. You used to be able to claim them as unreimbursed employee expenses if you could itemize your deductions, but unreimbursed employee expenses went away with Tax Reform.
3. Deduction for Volunteering?
Most teachers I’ve met have extremely giving hearts, and it’s not uncommon to see them spend extra time helping out their students and around the school. If you’re a teacher, I bet you’re wondering, can I get some tax benefits for this volunteer work? It depends, the IRS has specific guidelines. Is the charitable organization you’re volunteering for qualified and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) exempt organization? If so, you may be able to deduct some of your expenses as part of your charitable contribution deduction if you can itemize your deductions:
- Transportation/Travel: Keep meticulous track of your travel expenses driving back and forth to where you’re volunteering or you can use the 14 cents/mile allowed by the IRS. If you have to pay for parking and it’s related to your work, then you can deduct it.
- Uniforms: If you are required to wear a uniform, you may be able to deduct the cost as part of your volunteer work. Please note, though, it can not be something you can wear every day such as a t-shirt with a logo.
- Supplies: Providing supplies? You may be able to claim them (provided they are only for that organization).
4. Home Office Deduction
If you are a teacher who is not an employee and freelances and you use your home office exclusively for your education work , you may be able to take the home office deduction. While most teachers won’t qualify, certain specialists may be able to use this tax break.
5. Thoughts on Tax Breaks for Teachers
There’s so much teacher’s do both inside and outside the classroom. I hope these tax breaks make things a bit easier when it’s time to file. Don’t worry about knowing these tax breaks. You can come to TurboTax and fully hand your taxes over to a TurboTax Live tax expert available in English and Spanish and get your taxes done from start to finish. All from the comfort of your home. I’d love to hear from you! How long have you been teaching?