If you work in schools, you’ve likely spent money out of your own pocket for the benefit of the children you work with. It’s not a requirement for your position, but we know that you care and that, overall, schools are underfunded—so it’s probably happened.
The Educator Expense Deduction
We have a little bit of good news for you, and it comes in the form of the Educator Expense Deduction. On your taxes, you can deduct up to $250 that you spent on professional development courses or materials for your classroom.
Because this is a deduction, it doesn’t directly reduce the amount of tax you owe by $250. Instead, it lowers your adjusted gross income (AGI) by $250. This usually lowers your tax burden, but it’s admittedly unlikely to be a large relief.
Do I have to be a teacher to claim the deduction?
No! If you’re an aide, principal, counselor or instructor at a K-12 primary or secondary school, you’re eligible—as long as you work 900 hours or more during the school year.
Can I take this deduction if I’m a home school parent?
Things to Watch Out For
If you have received any of these things in the past year, you will have to subtract it from the amount of the credit that you can claim.
- Interest on EE and I savings bonds that you didn’t claim as taxable (because you used them for untaxable expenses per each bond’s rules.)
- Tax-free withdrawals from a Coverdell account.
- Reimbursements you’ve received from work that don’t show up on your W-2.
- Distributions from state tuitions programs that you weren’t required to include on your tax return.
That means if you spent $250 on expenses but you made $150 in withdrawals from a Coverdell, you could only claim $100 for this deduction.
Another Way to Claim Educator Expenses
If you spent more than the standard deduction on educator expenses, it would be advantageous to itemize on top of claiming the Educator Expense Deduction.
This year, the standard deduction for a single person is $6,300. A married couple can claim $12,600. It goes up even higher if you have kids.
We certainly hope you haven’t had to spend that much out of your own pocket to keep up the quality of education at your school. However, if you’ve spent a smaller amount, like $750, we’d suggest considering other expenses that can count towards itemization.
You have used $250 for the Educator Expense Deduction. You have $500 left to put towards itemization. You drove to quite a few trainings and shadowing gigs for work. That driving added up to 700 miles in total over the course of the year, so you are able to itemize $392 for unreimbursed work-related travel expenses. You happen to live in a state that charges annual personal property taxes on vehicles, and you paid $258 towards that bill.
In addition, you’re a homeowner and paid $4,800 in interest on your mortgage this year. You paid $460 towards your union dues, and $100 to get your taxes prepared last year.
You review all of these numbers with a tax professional or program like TaxSlayer.com, and realized that itemizing means your deduction will be $6,510. That’s more than the $6,300 standard deduction, but it wouldn’t have been without the educator expenses you were savvy enough to carry over.
Work with a tax professional or legitimate software program. There are some complex rules involving percentages and categories when you’re itemizing, and it’s something you wouldn’t want to mess up.