In the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, Congress recognized that teachers deserve a tax break that doesn't require them to jump through hoops when filing their returns. This special opportunity for teachers to receive a tax break for some of their classroom expenses is officially called the educator expense deduction. It allows eligible educators to get up to a $250 deduction for expenses that are not reimbursed by the school or school district.
Educator Expense Deduction
You can deduct the cost of books, equipment, computers, software, supplies or other items purchased for use in classroom instruction and which are considered necessary and ordinary in your field of instruction. Home-schooling course material is excluded. If you were reimbursed for part of your expenditures, you can only claim the deduction for unreimbursed costs. The educator deduction is not a teacher tax credit, which means that it reduces your taxable income, rather than being subtracted from your tax liability. This differs from a credit, which is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed.
The deduction is shown as an adjustment to income, which means you don't need to itemize deductions to take the benefit. Report up to $250 on line 23 of Form 1040 and line 16 of Form 1040A. You cannot take this deduction on Form 1040EZ. If you and your spouse are both qualified educators with eligible expenses, you can deduct up to $500 on your return for married filing jointly.
Exceptions for Nonqualifying Educators
The deduction is limited to teachers, teacher's aides, counselors, principals and other instructors in kindergarten through twelfth grade only. You must work at least 900 hours per school year to be considered eligible, so substitute teachers, summer-school or part-time instructors may not qualify. The deduction is not extended to parents who homeschool their children.
2018 Taxes and Reimbursed Expenses
Although the 2018 tax law changes eliminate the tax deduction for miscellaneous expenses not reimbursed by an employer, this doesn't apply to teachers. You can still file for tax breaks for teachers as always. However, employees that don't qualify for the $250 teacher deduction can no longer claim the expenses as miscellaneous deductions. The standard deduction has increased substantially, to $12,000 per person, which will help compensate for the loss.
2017 Taxes and Miscellaneous Deductions
For those filing 2017 taxes, if you have over $250 of classroom expenses, or you do not qualify for the educator deduction for any reason, you may still qualify for a tax break. You can claim all other educator expenses as unreimbursed employee expenses on Schedule A if you itemize. You'll need to exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income to take the deduction. Report those expenses on line 21 of Schedule A as miscellaneous deductions.
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 17 (Your Federal Income Tax)
- National Education Association: Teacher Tax Deduction Eligibility Requirements
- We Are Teachers: How Will Trump’s New Tax Code Impact Teachers?
- Forbes: New: IRS Announces 2018 Tax Rates, Standard Deductions, Exemption Amounts And More
- IRS: Topic Number 458 - Educator Expense Deduction
- Internal Revenue Service: 2018 Instructions for Schedule A (Form 1040)
Naomi Smith has been writing full-time since 2009, following a career in finance. Her fiction has been published by Loose Id and Dreamspinner Press, among others. She holds a Master of Science in financial economics from the London School of Economics and a Bachelor of Arts in political economy from the University of California, Berkeley.