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Tax tips for educators

Posted on October 23, 2017

If you are a teacher, administrator or aide, you are most likely not thinking about your taxes this time of year. But just maybe, suggest the CPAs at Teipen, Selanders, Poynter & Ayres, you should.

Knowing what to keep track of between now and the end of the year can absolutely help you reduce your tax burden come filing time next spring.

Here are some work-related tips that may help you reduce what you pay in taxes. All that’s required is doing a little careful accounting right now:

Educator Expense deduction

Educators can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators) of unreimbursed business expenses. This deduction is available even if you don’t itemize. To do so, the taxpayer must be a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide and have worked at least 900 hours in a state qualified school.

Those who qualify can deduct costs like books, supplies, computer equipment, software, classroom equipment, and athletic supplies for health or physical education used in the classroom.

Itemizing deductions on Schedule A

If you are an educator with qualifying classroom and professional development expenses that exceed the $250 limit, the IRS encourages you to claim these excess expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040 or Form 1040NR).

  • You can also claim other work-related expenses, such as the cost of subscriptions to professional journals, professional licenses and union dues.
  • Expenses for participation in professional development courses are deductible.
  • Even transportation expenses may be deductible when an educator is assigned to teach at two different schools on the same day.

Don’t forget the 2% rule

Miscellaneous deductions of this kind are subject to a two-percent limit. This means that a taxpayer must subtract two percent of their adjusted gross income from the total qualifying miscellaneous deduction amount. Your CPA can help you ascertain this amount.

Keep accurate, thorough records

TSPA strongly recommends that educators keep detailed records of qualifying expenses noting the date, amount and purpose of each purchase. This will help prevent a missed deduction at tax time.

Of course, all taxpayers should also keep a copy of their tax return for at least three years.

If you are an educator, TSPA thanks you for all you do to help the students in your classroom. We hope you will “chalk up” these tax tips for future reference. We know you deserve all the tax breaks you can get — now and throughout the year!