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IRS gives teacher tax break for school supplies, but it’s hardly enough

The IRS is giving educators (a little) tax break for unreimbursed books, supplies, and other materials.

IRS gives teacher tax break for school supplies, but it’s hardly enough
[Source Images: Getty]

While students and parents may be excited about back-to-school season, this time of year can be particularly stressful for those working in the education system. On top of being wildly underpaid, faculty responsible for a student’s education, development, and safety are forced to operate with little to no resources. The lack of funding puts teachers in an unnecessarily selfless position, where they dip into their wallets to fund the curriculum. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced this month that educators teaching kindergarten through Grade 12 can deduct up to $300 of expenses when they file their federal income tax return next year, even if they take the standard deduction. Here’s what to know:

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  • This isn’t a new tax credit. Since 2002, the IRS has offered a $250 tax deduction for educators’ unreimbursed, out-of-pocket classroom expenses. Teachers, instructors, counselors, principals, and school aides at public, private, and charter schools qualify so long as they serve at least 900 hours during the school year.
  • The deductible limit is tied to inflation. The IRS says, “the limit will rise in $50 increments in future years based on inflation adjustments.” For married couples who are both educators and filing a joint return, the limit rises to $600, but can’t exceed $300 for each spouse.
  • It’s not much. While educators can deduct the cost of books, supplies, and other classroom materials, that’s hardly cutting it in modern classrooms that need the flexibility and technology to shift to remote learning. In a 2020-2021 survey conducted by the nonprofit, Adopt A Class Room, teachers spent an average of $750 out of pocket during the school year, with 30% spending over $1,000–the highest amount ever.
  • Deductible items include protection against COVID-19. According to the same survey, 80% of teachers said they could not share materials and, on average, teachers paid $160 out-of-pocket on PPE. Not to mention the emotional support during the pandemic: 65% of educators reported having to help their students overcome the trauma of COVID-19.

While a $300 deductible may be nice, it can’t be the only incentive for those trusted with educating and caring for the youth of this country.

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