Teachers May Be Eligible for This Tax Break

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KEY POINTS

  • Teachers routinely spend their own money on classroom supplies.
  • You can claim a limited tax break if that's something you've done as an educator.


If you're an educator, make sure you're not missing out on some tax savings.

Teaching can be a very rewarding career. But let's face it -- it may not be the most lucrative or glamorous.

Being a teacher often means having to manage wild children and subjecting yourself to extra germs. And while different school districts have different compensation structures, for the most part, teaching isn't a career that's going to make you rich based on your paycheck alone.

Not only do many teachers earn a modest wage, but they also tend to spend a chunk of their earnings on classroom supplies. Because many school districts are sorely underfunded, it's often on teachers to pay for things like decorations, crayons, pencils, tissues, and small prizes or rewards for students who do a good job. And those costs can add up.

If you're a teacher who routinely spends money on classroom supplies, it's important you keep a list of those receipts. The reason? You can get some money back on your taxes.

You deserve a tax break

As a teacher, you deserve to reap as many tax benefits as you can. And you should know that you can claim up to $250 as a tax deduction if you spend that much on educator expenses like the ones mentioned above. If you're married to another teacher and file a joint tax return, you can each claim that $250 deduction for a total of $500.

Now before you claim that deduction, you'll need to make sure you have proof of what you spent. It's a good idea to scan receipts and store them electronically so they don't get worn and harder to read. It's also a good idea to hang onto credit card statements that include educator expenses.

Another thing you should know is that you don't need to itemize on your tax return to claim a deduction for education expenses. Other tax deductions do require you to itemize. For example, if you're claiming a deduction for the interest you've paid on your mortgage, you can only do so if you're itemizing and aren't claiming the standard deduction.

But there's an exception for educator expenses. Educator expenses are considered an above-the-line deduction. They're also known as adjustments to income and are subtracted from your gross income to arrive at your adjusted gross income, or AGI. Your AGI is then used to see which tax credits you qualify for.

Another example of an above-the-line credit is contributions to a traditional IRA. You can claim this deduction even if you don't itemize on your tax return.

Get some of your money back

As a teacher, you might spend well more than $250 of your own money in the course of a year. If that's the case, make sure to at least claim your $250 deduction when you file your tax return.

And also, don't be shy about asking parents for support if stocking your classroom becomes a financial burden (and if your district allows it). This especially holds true if you don't work in an economically challenged area. You may be surprised at how willing parents are to send in supplies if you speak up and request them.

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