Teachers who have spent their own money on masks, hand sanitizer or other Covid-19 related supplies this year will get a little help come tax time.
Those costs can be deducted with other eligible out-of-pocket expenses on 2021 taxes filed next year.
Teachers have been able to deduct up to $250 each year in out-of-pocket expenses – $500 if two teachers are married and filing jointly – for some time. Due to the pandemic, however, the benefit was expanded to include supplies for protection against Covid-19.
"Good for teachers," said enrolled agent Adam Markowitz, vice president at Howard L Markowitz PA, CPA in Leesburg, Florida, adding that educators generally have to incur a lot of costs throughout the school year, especially those that work with younger kids.
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Who and what are eligible
The change means that in addition to professional development courses, books and other supplies, teachers can deduct the costs of things such as masks, face shields, gloves and soap on their taxes this year.
Eligible costs related to Covid-19 also include tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing, physical barriers such as clear plexiglass, air purifiers or any other items that the Centers for Disease Control recommends using to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Teachers must teach any grade from kindergarten through twelfth grade to be eligible. And, other educators such as instructors, counsellors, principals or aides are also eligible for the deduction if they work in a school that provides primary or secondary education and work at least 900 hours during the school year.
How the deduction helps and falls short
To be sure, most teachers spend more than $250 over the course of a normal school year in supplies and did so before the coronavirus pandemic, which inflated costs even more.
So far during the 2021-2022 school year, teachers spent an average of $750 on school supplies, according to a survey of more than 5,000 educators from AdoptAClassRoom.org.
Still, by using this deduction, teachers and other eligible educators can lower their taxable income and thus reduce their potential liability for the year. Basically, that means they will owe less to the government if they claim the full deduction for school-related expenses.
Those who are eligible can take the deduction on their IRS Form 1040 and should keep records for the expenses they are claiming, according to Markowitz.
"Teachers should be able to easily identify in most cases that they spent $250 on being a teacher," he said.
He also noted that the deduction, while helpful for educators, hasn't been increased for years and doesn't cover much of what many teachers spend annually in the classroom.
"I've never met a teacher that has not been able to take this deduction," he said.
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