As a traveling teacher, it's likely that you have more out-of-pocket expenses than teachers who work at the same school everyday. But this also means you may have more deductions to take when filing your income taxes. Regardless of whether you're employed or self-employed, some of these deductions may be worth looking into if your travel and other related expenses aren't reimbursed.
If you're the type of traveling teacher who works locally and get to return home each night after work, you can deduct all of your transportation costs. This includes the cost of public transportation, like buses and trains, as well as the expense of driving your own car. When using a personal vehicle to reach your students, the Internal Revenue Service gives you two options. You can either keep track of the actual costs of gassing up your car during the year, or if you prefer not to hold onto all those receipts, you can calculate the deduction using the standard mileage rate. The standard mileage rate is a fixed amount you can deduct for each mile you drive.
Teachers who travel outside the general area where they live and spend one or more nights away from home are eligible for additional deductions. For each out-of-town trip you take to teach, you can write off the cost of staying in hotels, all local and long-distance transportation expenses you incur to get to and from the location, as well as local transport while there. Typically, deductible travel expenses cover taxi fares, bus tickets, car rental fees and airline tickets, for example. And while you're teaching, you can also deduct dry cleaning bills, the cost of shipping personal effects to the location you'll be working at, half the cost of food and other incidental expenses, such as reasonable tips you give hotel staff.
Reporting Travel and Transportation
How you report these travel and transportation deductions depends on whether you're employed or a self-employed teacher. If you're employed, you can only itemize the expenses on Schedule A as a miscellaneous expense. In addition, you'll need to report the expenses on Form 2106 or the abbreviated 2106-EZ form if eligible. Teachers who are self-employed report the expenses on Schedule C, or if you don't incur more than $5,000 of expenses and satisfy other requirements, on the shorter Schedule C-EZ. One drawback to reporting miscellaneous expenses is that the total of all eligible expenses is reduced by 2 percent of your adjusted gross income, or AGI -- so that less than 100 percent of your expenses are actually deductible.
Traveling teachers who work for schools that enroll students between the kindergarten and twelfth-grade level may be eligible to take the educator expenses deduction for the classroom supplies and materials they purchase with their own funds. You have to work at least 900 hours during the school year to qualify for a deduction up to $250. Unlike your travel and transportation expenses, this deduction is taken as an adjustment to income – which means you don't have to itemize or reduce the deduction by 2 percent of your AGI.
Michael Marz has worked in the financial sector since 2002, specializing in wealth and estate planning. After spending six years working for a large investment bank and an accounting firm, Marz is now self-employed as a consultant, focusing on complex estate and gift tax compliance and planning.