Ah, crisp afternoons, cool evenings, apples, cider, and falling leaves. Now that autumn is in full swing and school is in session, many teachers are reaching into their own wallets to purchase classroom supplies. While a nice gesture for their students, making this a regular practice throughout the school year can add up fast and add a financial headache. But fortunately, eligible educators may be able to defray qualified expenses they paid in 2019 when they file their tax return in 2020.

How to qualify

According to the Internal Revenue Service, those educators who work in schools may qualify to deduct up to $250 of unreimbursed expenses. This amount goes up to $500 if two qualified educators are married and file a joint return. However, keep in mind neither spouse can deduct more than $250 of his or her qualified expenses when they file their taxes, according to the IRS.

The IRS reports taxpayers who qualify for this deduction must:

  • Teach any grade from kindergarten through the twelfth grade.
  • Are a teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or an aide.
  • Work at least 900 hours during the school year.
  • Work in a school that provides elementary or secondary education.

Qualified expenses include:

  • Professional development courses.
  • Books.
  • Supplies.
  • Computer equipment including related software and services.
  • Supplementary materials.
  • Athletic supplies only for health and physical education.

Eligible taxpayers can also claim this deduction when they file their taxes. The IRS recommends teachers consider using its tax software to help guide them through the process of claiming the deduction when preparing their taxes. Many teachers may qualify to use the online software for free with IRS Free File.  Feel free to visit the link for more details, information, and assistance.

Teachers, educators and the like can claim the deduction on Form 1040 (PDF) (attach Form 1040, Schedule 1 (PDF)) or Form 1040NR (PDF).

Additionally, the IRS points out q1ualified expenses are deductible only to the extent the amount of such expenses exceed the following amounts for the tax year. Take these factors into consideration as required by the Internal Revenue:

  • The interest on Series EE and I U.S. savings bonds that you exclude from income because you paid qualified higher education expenses.
  • Any distribution from a qualified state tuition program that you exclude from income.
  • Any tax-free withdrawals from your Coverdell education savings accounts.
  • Any reimbursements you receive for expenses that aren’t reported to you in box 1 of your Form W-2 (PDF).

For additional information regarding the deduction for certain expenses of an eligible educator, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals or the Form 1040NR Instructions (PDF).

Source: IRS