What teachers should know about deducting out-of-pocket classroom expenses

Now that fall is here and school has started, many teachers are dipping into their own pockets to buy classroom supplies. Doing this throughout the year can add up fast. Fortunately, eligible educators may be able to defray qualified expenses they paid in 2019 when they file their tax return in 2020.

Educators who work in schools may qualify to deduct up to $250 of unreimbursed expenses. That amount goes up to $500 if two qualified educators are married and file a joint return. However, neither spouse can deduct more than $250 of his or her qualified expenses when they file.

Taxpayers qualify for this deduction if they:

  • Teach any grade from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
  • Are a teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide.
  • Work at least 900 hours during the school year.
  • Work in a school that provides elementary or secondary education.

Qualified expenses include:

  • Professional development courses.
  • Books.
  • Supplies.
  • Computer equipment including related software and services.
  • Supplementary materials.
  • Athletic supplies only for health and physical education.

Eligible taxpayers can claim this deduction when they file their taxes. The IRS encourages teachers to consider using tax software to help guide them through the process of claiming the deduction.

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