Can Homeschoolers Qualify for an Educator Expense Deduction?

Teachers may be able to deduct unreimbursed school expenses.

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There are times an educator will spend her own money to buy supplies for her classroom. For expenses that will not be reimbursed, the IRS allows qualified educators to take a deduction, up to $250, for the costs of qualified expenses. The key word is "qualified." Both the educator and the purchased supplies must meet certain requirements.

Qualified Educators

The IRS defines a qualified educator as a teacher, principal, instructor or aide who works in a public or private school system with students in grades kindergarten to 12th grade. Additionally, the educator must work a minimum of 900 hours per school year. The IRS also specifically allows the deduction to homeschoolers if they are employees of the school system and are homeschooling students who cannot commute to school regularly, such as those students who are ill.

Homeschooling Parents

As homeschooling has become more popular, many parents are becoming their child’s teacher. The tax law, however, makes it clear that such homeschoolers do not meet the eligibility requirements, outlined in the previous section, that allow them to claim the deduction.

Deductible Classroom Expenses

If you qualify for the deduction as a homeschooler because you work for a school district and are assigned to students at their homes, you may deduct expenses for items such as classroom supplies. These items must be of the type that are typically found in a classroom and that are helpful to you as a teacher in improving the education of your students.

Maximum Deduction

The educator’s deduction is reported to the IRS as an adjustment to income. This means there is no need to itemize to claim the deduction on your return. If your spouse is also a qualifying educator, and you file a joint return, the total deduction can be as high as $500. If you spend more than $250 and itemize your deductions, the expenses over $250 can be claimed as a non-reimbursable business expense.