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Expenses that teachers can (and can't) deduct on their tax returns

Posted by Tim Posted on Aug 28 2019

Teacher Expenses
Being married to a Kindergarten teacher, I know a thing or two about just how much these folks can (and do) come out of their own pockets to make a classroom perfect...or to deliver their very best to their students...or to just pick up where the school resources leave off.  To me, this deduction shouldn't be limited to just $250, but we work with what we're given.  So here are a few thoughts as teachers across the country head back for a new school year.  What are the limits?  What can and can't be written off?  I answer it here.

Eligible deductions

Here are some details about the educator expense deduction:

For 2019, educators can deduct up to $250 of trade or business expenses that weren’t reimbursed. (The deduction is $500 if both taxpayers are eligible educators who file a joint tax return, but these taxpayers can’t deduct more than $250 each.)

Qualified expenses are amounts educators paid, unreimbursed, out of their own pockets during the tax year. Examples of expenses that educators can deduct include books, supplies, computer equipment (including software), other materials used in the classroom, and professional development courses.

To be eligible, taxpayers must be kindergarten through grade 12 teachers, instructors, counselors, principals or aides. They must also work at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law.

Educators should keep receipts when they make eligible expenses and note the date, amount and purpose of each purchase.

Ineligible deductions

Teachers or professors may see advertisements for job-related courses in out-of-town or exotic locations. You may have wondered whether traveling to these courses is tax-deductible on teachers’ tax returns. The bad news is that, for tax years 2018–2025, it isn’t, because the outlays are employee business expenses.

Prior to 2018, employee business expenses could be claimed as miscellaneous itemized deductions. However, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, miscellaneous itemized deductions aren’t deductible by individuals for tax years 2018–2025.


Have questions?  Comment below or send me a message!