Teachers who pay for expenses related to their job may not always be reimbursed by their school or other employer. Fortunately, they may be able to claim a deduction for some of these expenses. Perhaps the most helpful deduction is the educator deduction, which covers up to $300 for the cost of classroom materials, such as books and equipment. You can claim this deduction if you teach students in any grade from kindergarten through the end of high school. This is not an itemized deduction, so you can take the deduction even if you are claiming the standard deduction, as most people do under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Spouses who are educators can claim up to $600 under this deduction, but each of you is limited to $300 for your separate expenses.
The Educator Expense Deduction
Expenses are only deductible under the educator expense deduction if they exceed:
interest on series EE and I savings bonds excluded from income and used to pay for qualified higher education expenses
distributions from qualified state tuition programs excluded from income
tax-free withdrawals from a Coverdell education savings account
reimbursements for expenses not reported in box 1 of a W-2
Other Deductions and Credits
You may be able to claim a tuition and fees deduction for any continuing education courses. This deduction can cover up to $4,000 in tuition and fees related to a course at an accredited post-secondary educational institution. You can take this deduction as long as you meet the income limits. Similar to the educator deduction, it is not itemized, so you can claim it while claiming the standard deduction.
The lifetime learning credit provides another way to shield the costs of continuing education or training from taxes. The credit covers 20 percent of these fees and is capped at $2,000 per year. These costs may include not only tuition fees but also supplies and materials for the continuing education course.
Charitable donations are only deductible if a filer itemizes their deductions.
If you make a donation to an educational institution, you can claim the donation as an itemized deduction. This means that you can get the deduction only if you do not use the standard deduction. Teachers generally will use the standard deduction under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which greatly expanded its size. A donation can consist of either money or property, such as books or classroom supplies.
Exclusions From Deductions
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act removed all personal tax deductions that were based on exceeding two percent of an individual’s adjusted gross income. One of these deductions covered unreimbursed job expenses. Teachers sometimes used this itemized deduction to cover costs for teacher union dues or travel related to their work. Since this deduction was eliminated by the Act, it will not be available until 2026. (Federal tax laws also are subject to change, so its return is not guaranteed.) As a result, teachers should try to get reimbursed by their employer for these costs.