Education News

3 things you should know about the educator tax deduction

By Amanda Litvinov / photo by Philip Taylor

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Each year, educators reach into their wallets to buy classroom supplies and instructional materials their students need and wouldn’t otherwise have. They collectively spent a whopping $1.6 billion of their own money in the 2012-13 school year alone, according to the most recent data of the National School Supply and Equipment Association.

The Senate is expected to soon pass the bill that made it through the House last week, which would revive the expired $250 tax deduction for educators who make such purchases. But even if the bill passes, our work on this issue won’t be done.

Here are three things you should know:

1. Even if the Senate signs off on the House-approved bill, it only covers 2014.

The educator tax deduction expired at the end of 2013, and the current bill is retroactive, only covering educators’ 2014 classroom purchases. That means we’ll have to take up the cause again in the 114th Congress to extend the tax credit to 2015 and beyond.

2. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle care about this issue.

The educator tax deduction was instituted in 2002 in recognition of educators’ generosity, and has long had bipartisan support.

In the House, Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) has introduced the Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2014 (H.R. 5504), which would make permanent the educator tax deduction for qualified expenses and expand it to include some professional development expenses.

Reichert and the bill’s four other sponsors (Jim McDermott (D-WA), Aaron Schock (R-IL), Pat Tiberi (R-OH), and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)) said in a statement: “Too often teachers spend their own hard-earned money in order to provide their students with basic school supplies. Our bill will alleviate some of the financial burden placed on today’s teachers while also making a significant investment in the education and the futures of America’s children.”

3. Your activism makes a difference!

Just ask New Hampshire teacher Margaret Morse-Berry, whose letter inspired Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) to take up the cause. Last year, as the educator tax credit was about to expire, Morse-Berry wrote a letter to Rep. Shea-Porter about how educators help fill the gaps left by school budgets that just don’t cover everything.

Rep. Shea-Porter introduced H.R.3318, the Reimburse Educators who Pay for Academic Year (REPAY) Supplies Act, and built a coalition of 68 bipartisan cosponsors. The Congresswoman also visited Morse-Berry, a special education coordinator, on the job at South Range Elementary School.

Stay tuned for opportunities to support efforts to make the educator tax deduction permanent!

25 responses to “3 things you should know about the educator tax deduction

  1. Most teachers including myself spend so much more than $250.00 because we care about our students. When you have students who have never visited a zoo, you want to make that as real to them as possible. This costs money. To celebrate several multicultural events throughout the year dictates purchasing food, products, games and activities to really enhance students’ understanding. This all costs money. Not to mention the hats, gloves, socks, shoes, jackets, school supplies, personal toiletry items, and on and on and on that today’s kids lack, this also costs money. Do we say we don’t care? Then why are we here? Please extend the credit – your child has a passionate teacher as well.

  2. I have spent money on everything mentioned by other teachers above. I can’t stand not to have what my students need to learn and be creative. I bought some smiley face stickies and put them on my student’s hands for the great job they did…I teach high school reading for students who range from below first grade reading to about sixth grade reading levels. Due to poor reading skills throughout their school experiences…they need what they never got in grade school…recognition for good reading-their smiles split their faces in half! I have bought cup-of-soup by the case for beginning teachers who were going without lunch before pay days. Do people know that people who run out of food still buy supplies for their students? We have 40% homeless students, we keep snacks on hand for authentic hunger so our students can concentrate on learning. If we want to have a pizza party or ice cream social after a three day test for the state requirements, that comes out of our own pockets. We have 0 paid holidays. School districts hold part of our paychecks to cover summer months which we are not paid for, but unlike banks or a money market fund, they do not give us any interest on the money that they “hold” for us. We have a couple of “personal business” days a year that can be saved up to a total of six days, then “use it or loose it”. That is as close as we get to “vacation” pay. To teach, you pretty much have to love it in spite of the pay, not because of the pay. I do love teaching. I know that together, we have saved a lot of lives through teaching beyond just the curriculum, and by showing there are caring adults who can listen, encourage, teach and find life assistance for at risk students. It is so encouraging to us, when people show that they agree with our values by supporting and encouraging fairness for teachers who are professionals that give all that we can, every day.

  3. I taught a high school art history class for many years before I retired. My team-mate and I spent about $3,000 in books and slides. It was either that or not offer the classes at all. That was back in the ’80s and ’90s before the Internet. After I retired, I became an adjunct at a state university, teaching one Freshman Composition class. My students are all disadvantaged. So, I find myself having to supply products that they cannot afford–folders, index cards, pens, flash drives, and some textbooks. Yes, they get financial aid, but it covers nothing else. Many of them are helping to support their families, as well as attempting to enhance their education. Last year, I spent over $4500 in “professional aids.” Fortunately, I can afford it, but I figure that, if they graduate, get a well-paying job, and pay taxes, all of us will be better off!

  4. I am a retired teacher who taught for many years. I would be a little richer if I didn’t care that my students would come to school many times without having eaten dinner or breakfast. There are so many unseen victims in this make-believe “teachers are rich”, foolish, and undereducated world view that possesses the minds of those who cannot possibly perceive what poverty entails because most of them are not on the front lines watching it in action. Teachers are awesome. The live in the line of fire. They are the soldiers on the ground of one of the holdouts we have in our country that can give some kind of equity to our educational system. They open their eyes, their ears, and their hearts to those they teach. This probably does not include every teacher, but a vast majority of them can hold in their lovely hearts a greater riches than anyone can hold in their wallet. 250 dollars is a pittance.

  5. Like my colleagues above, I have spent (and continue to spend) hundreds of dollars each year for my classroom supplies. As a new teacher I didn’t even realize I could claim supplies I purchased for my students out of pocket — until fairly recently! My former colleagues (I retired a year ago from full time public school teaching, but continue to teach in other settings) additionally spend many hundreds each year to ensure quality education. When I worked in the inner city (22 years) I bought copier paper, pens, books, art supplements, music — even books for my classes. I have already contacted my state senators and state representative to restore the tax deduction permanently: What are the rest of us waiting for?!!

  6. I am a retired teacher. I know many, many teachers I taught with over the more than 3 decades spent at least this much on classroom supplies. This included food, paper and printing from home and multitudes of motivation items. In many cases, it included kleenex, books and items for special events and productions that were needed quickly and no purchase order would be able to get it there on time IF the items were even available and there was money in the budget for it. With proposition 2 1/2 in this state, many things including supplies have been cut and cut more over the decades of trying desperately to stay under a 2 1/2 % budget when electricity, heating, busing, books and so many other things that can not be controlled go way up. This deduction is needed much more than ever.

  7. I think I can echo everyone before me when I say I spend more than a measely $250.00 yearly on supplies: books for a classroom library, pencils and pens plus binder paper, coloring tools,glue sticks and paper for projects, and printers,ink and paper,not to mention the printer itself. Hours of professional development. Three credentials, a Masters degree; and new requirements, strategies and expectations to meet every year.
    I’e always wondered at the lip-service given by Americans, parents and politicians, to the importance of educating the generations to follow, the next adults. Our kids have missed so many experiences: field trips, museums, concerts, cultural events, performers brought to school to share their talents. On campus, the cutting of arts, music, vocational programs have meant less to keep students’ interests and entice them to come to school. Not every student want the college experience, but they can all be successful in their lives given the right motivation and attention to who they really are, not what we want them to be.
    As educators, we probably have the largest group of professionals in the country, but we never seem to use that leverage in ways that benefit teachers and students, rather than politicians, businesses and arm-chair education experts. When will we trust our combined strength and use the power of many voters to move this country to support its kids and its educators who work with them to bring up the next participating generations.

  8. the $250 should be pernament and be raised each year with the cost of living. Teachers yearly spend so much more than that…..

  9. Every colleague I work with spends hundreds of dollars in his or own money each year. We easily can produce the receipts. It is part of what teachers do, and it is our investment in what we believe so deeply in. This is a win win for taxpayers. It should be maintained and someday even raised.

  10. $250 is not even close to what I spend on my classroom. Last year it was $10,000, and I have the receipts to prove it. I am not unique. When our careers are challenged because of eTpes, we go to the teacher stores or Office Max to try to come up with something “rigorous and relevant.” Laminating machines break and don’t get replaced, so we have to go elsewhere. Little Anna’s pink glitter boots don’t follow dress code, so I go to the mall to get black flats that do, because her mom can’t afford to buy them. Teachers also pass down our own children’s hand me downs which don’t get written off on our taxes.

    Is there any wonder that teachers have such a high divorce rate. Not too many spouses would put up with this…if they know. Those who DO know sometimes consider our careers an expensive hobby.

    I’m retiring soon, and I wish I could say that collecting unemployment would be a raise without these expenses, but I can’t because I won’t have enough years to collect the full amount. But enough is enough. The expenses are too great. I have 3 degrees and I would be making a lot more in another industry, without the additional expenses. I work 100 hours per week, but because I’m salaried I only get paid for 33.75 hours. It has cost me 2 marriages, friends, and a lot of time away from family. So believe me, $250 is nothing, but we’ll take what we can get.

    I could write more, but I have reports, lesson plans, and homework to compose and print off. Ink, paper, computer and printers purchased by me. Yes, it is Saturday night and I should be Christmas shopping.

    1. It’s simply ridiculous to spend $10,000 in your classroom. I don’t think this is praiseworthy. Are you rich or do you put your job ahead of your family? When you do this the public assumes that teachers are overpaid since some people can pull this off. Most of us struggle to buy the extra paper, pencils, and snacks for our students and still feed our own kids.

      1. This is to Michelle: if any parent or administrator or CNN reporter believes or say they believe teachers are wealthy, then they are liars. If you one of the lucky ones in a state where the VEA is a real union, and not just an association, you probably have decent health insurance’; I have my own; my poor colleagues have to pay UPfront at least 2500 out of pocket before any insurance kicks in and, like every school district, the majority of the teachers and aides are women.

        Your chiding Lynette for spending money proves you judge without information; I teach a remedial reading class; there is NO budget for my students. Zip! Nada! Niente! Zero! Ten years I have had to find materials from my wallet and the generosity of an educational foundation. Thanks, Michelle, for assuming that every area in education has a set amount of money given for its usage. How far can a teacher go on a budget of zero? I was never a math major but even I know zero = zero.

        Not only do I firmly endorse the tax credit , it needs to be $1000 for ever and all teachers have to keep upgrading their licenses, right? Do doctors, dentists, bus drivers, waiters, waitresses, congressmen, congresswomen, senators, vice-president, any bureaucrat? Well, every penny we spend on books, time, ink, word processing, our driving to and from classes, every single effort we have to expend on constantly proving to the world, to each state legislature and to the Federal money cow that we teachers are good little boys AND girls and we know our profession (*Yes, Virginia, some of we teachers are professional: we know proper grammar, we use proper grammar, we set good examples for student, we endorse rigor and standards, thank you!) and we are not quasi-professionals.

        Thank you for any time and attention you have given to my musings. FYI I am not a teaching novice and I hold three state licenses.

        1. I am both a teacher and a dental hygienist. To address Lynn’s question of whether other professions have to “keep upgrading” their licenses, well yes they do. Doctors, dentists, nurses, dental hygienists, all other health care professionals that I know of, and most other licensed professions must do continuing education to keep up their licenses. The educational expenses associated with this continuing education and with our teachers professional development and college classes, along with our certificate renewal fees are already deductible as education/professional expenses and should not be confused with the $250 deduction for classroom materials. The deduction we are talking about here is a separate from those other expenses. And I agree, the deduction should be much higher. I bought some new technology for my classroom this year along with the usual things others have listed and have receipts for about $750.

      2. It is not ridiculous to spend thousands in a classroom – last year I spent $5500. and this year $4300. (this is what I have receipts for). I had to buy my own tables, shelves, chairs, electronics, etc. What some teachers and apparently tax preparers do not know is that teachers are entitled to a 250. deduction everything above that can be claimed as a business expense.

        “You can claim up to $250 of classroom expenses for supplies, materials, books, software, and so forth. If both you and your spouse are educators, you can both claim up to $250 of expenses for $500 total on a joint return. Any classroom expenses in excess of these limits can be deducted as an employee business expense, which is a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to threshold of 2% of adjusted gross income.”

  11. When I watch teacher supplies my grandchildren bring home, I just can not imagine dropping this minimal deduction for all the educators donate to the classroom!

  12. There should be no question, that making this much needed deduction permanent is the right thing to do. Congress, please listen.

  13. The $250 educator tax credit should be made permanent. This amount is only a portion of what educators spend on materials and supplies for the classrooms across this country These expenditures are made every year and not for a short period of years. Therefore tax credit should br maintained.

  14. I am a 11th year teacher, and a single mom. The 250 dollar tax credit should be permanent! I know that I spend as much in my classroom as I do providing my own children with supplies for the year! I spend close to 500 dollars out of my pocket each year in order to give my students as many opportunities as possible. That adds up to approximately 5500 dollars throughout my teaching career! That is a lot of money out of my families budget.

  15. please give teachers this tax credit permanently. I myself have purchased hundreds of dollars on needed school supplies for my students to be successful. Can you extend the generosity that I have shown my students the past 16 years and give the teacher tax credit permanently?

  16. My bill of out of pocket costs is AT LEAST 500.00, with cost of supplies, ink, technology, etc. needed in order to do my job. Please give myself and all of my colleagues who spend there hard earned money as well and don’t take away our tax deduction. It is a small amount for many of us who also have families.

  17. I give them lunch money. I buy school supplies on sale in August and given freely throughout the year. I purchase small rewards. I buy Christmas gifts for struggling families. I am far from alone. It adds up quickly. This year I got my first small raise in 6 years. The tax deduction helps and it’s the right thing to do.

  18. My bill for simple supplies this year in addition to materials and technology Imrequire to do my job will exceed $400, when was the last time business made its staff purchase ink for printers, use their own scanner or purchase pens, pencils so their clients (students) could complete their work. Give me a break eliminating this tiny deduction is just another attack on teachers and hard working Americans.

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