5 Tax Breaks for Teachers on World Teachers’ Day (1440 × 600 px)
5 Tax Breaks for Teachers on World Teachers’ Day (411 × 600 px)

Tax Breaks for Teachers

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While teaching is a very noble profession, sometimes it can be difficult and, at times, financially draining. However, the good news is that there are some tax benefits that teachers may qualify for. For all the teachers out there, here are a few benefits that can lighten your financial load.

1. Educator Expense Deduction & Union Dues

It’s common for many teachers to pay out of their pocket for a portion of their classroom supplies and purchases here and there throughout the year can quickly add up. However, the good news is that you may be able to deduct some of these expenses at tax time!

In 2024, eligible teachers can deduct up to $300 in unreimbursed classroom expenses. If you and your spouse are both teachers and are filing jointly, you can deduct $600 (but not more than $300 for each of you). To qualify, you have to:

  • Be a K-12 teacher, counselor, principal, or aide.
  • Work a minimum of 900 hours at a state-certified school. Both public and private school educators qualify.

Expenses that are deductible:

  • Books, supplies, and other materials used in your classroom.
  • Equipment, including computer equipment, software, and services.
  • COVID-19 protective items to stop the spread of the disease in the classroom such as hand soap, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.
  • Professional development courses related to the curriculum you teach or the students you teach. The IRS recommends that you use other educational tax credits like the Lifetime Learning Credit, which we will discuss next.

Make sure you keep all of your receipts! A suggestion for managing your receipts would be to scan them and have a digital copy on file. This makes it easier to save, organize, and reference when it’s time to figure out the correct amount of your deduction.

It is important to note that union dues cannot be deducted through the educator expense deduction. Prior to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, you used to be able to claim dues as unreimbursed employee expenses if you itemize your deductions. However, that deduction got eliminated with the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

2. Lifetime Learning Credit

If you’re taking classes, you may also get to take advantage of the Lifetime Learning Credit for your tuition, books, and necessary equipment. If you qualify, you can claim up to $2,000 per tax return. 

This credit is available for any post-secondary classes you take at a qualifying school. Generally, you do not have to be working toward a degree and can deduct courses taken to get or improve job skills. You can include the cost of tuition, fees, and any books or supplies you are required to purchase as a condition of enrollment.

3. Deduction for Volunteering?

Most teachers I’ve met have extremely giving hearts, and it’s not uncommon to see them spend extra time helping out their students and around the school. If you’re a teacher, I bet you’re wondering, can I get some tax benefits for this volunteer work? The answer depends on whether it meets the specific guidelines set by the IRS. 

First, you should verify whether the charitable organization you’re volunteering for is qualified and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) exempt organization. If so, you may be able to deduct some of your expenses as part of your charitable contribution deduction if you itemize your deductions. Here are some of the items that may be deductible:

  • Transportation/Travel: You can either keep meticulous track of your travel expenses, driving back and forth to your  volunteering location, or you can use the 14 cents/mile allowed by the IRS. If you have to pay for parking and it’s related to your volunteer work, then you can deduct it as well.
  • Uniforms: If you are required to wear a uniform, you may be able to deduct the cost of the uniform (and the upkeep) as part of your volunteer work. However,  the uniform is not deductible if you can wear every day, such as a t-shirt with a logo. It must be something special and not intended for everyday wear.
  • Supplies: If you are providing any supplies to the qualified organization, you may be able to claim them. The supplies you provide must only be for that organization.

4. Home Office Deduction

If you freelance, rather than teach as an employee of the school district, you may be able to take the home office deduction. Your home office must be exclusively used for your education work, and it must be either the principal location of your business or a place where you regularly meet with your students. While most teachers won’t qualify, certain specialists may be able to use this tax break.

5. Thoughts on Tax Breaks for Teachers

There’s so much teachers do both inside and outside the classroom. I hope these tax breaks make things a bit easier when it’s time to file. 

Thank you, teachers! 

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