A taxing vs. relaxing vacation
Tax consequences of Barry's blast

A tax apple for teachers

When I started college, I thought I was going to get a degree in education. My grandmother spent her entire career as a first-grade teacher and my Mam-ma was one of the coolest people I knew.

My aunt Nancy also spent her professional life as a teacher and guidance counselor. So I was looking forward to following in their footsteps and carrying on my family's educator tradition.

Kids_in_classroom_2 Then I realized I'd have to deal with kids all day long.

Whoa up, all you parents. I'm not dissing your progeny. I'm just admitting that I quickly realized I didn't have the patience or stamina to handle the job.

You should be glad I opted out, instead of becoming a teacher who grew frustrated and angry and who ultimately took it out on your children by not being good at my job. When I realized what it takes to be a teacher, my respect for my grandmother, who dealt with energetic 6-year-olds all her life (not to mention my mother, her three sisters and my grandfather!) skyrocketed.

So I opted for journalism. And I quickly learned that teaching and journalism do have one thing in common. Folks tend to do both because they enjoy it, not because of the woefully inadequate pay.

Teachers and taxes: Teachers' income recently got some IRS attention due to confusion about a tax-law change on deferred compensation. The tax agency has since reassured teachers and other school employees that new rules will not affect the way their pay is taxed during the upcoming school year.

The tax law in question is Section 409A, or as Joe at  Roth & Company, P.C. refers to it, "the misbegotten deferred compensation rules enacted in the wake of the Enron scandal."

Basically, under the law, when teachers and other employees were given an annualization election, that is, they were allowed to choose between being paid only during the school year or being paid over a 12-month period, and they chose the year-long option, they deferred part of their income from one year to the next. For example, payments for a school year running from August of one year through July of the next year falls into this category.

The IRS now says that school districts that have not been offering teachers the annualization are not required to start. As Joe notes, the IRS move means that teachers won't be hit with a 20 percent excise tax in 2007. The districts will, however, have to deal with this issue in 2008.

More details are in the IRS announcement and accompanying FAQs.

Back-to-school tax-free shopping: Starting tomorrow, shoppers picking up school supplies in Massachusetts will some tax savings. As mentioned in this earlier blog post, the state's sales-tax-free holiday is Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11 and 12.

While most of these August events (the full list such holidays is here) are aimed at back-to-school shoppers, in Massachusetts much more than school-related products are tax-free. All items costing $2,500 or less are exempt from state sale taxes.

Blog reader Julie wrote to ask whether the tax break applies to online purchases delivered to a Massachusetts address. Online and purchases are covered, but it's the payment date, not the delivery date that matters.

According to the state official online information sheet about the holiday, an eligible item is exempt if a Massachusetts Internet shopper orders and pays for the it on Aug. 11 or 12.

That means, in most cases, that you're off the sales-tax hook if you give the seller your credit card number, a debit authorization, a check or money order on one of the tax holiday days. The actual delivery can occur after the holiday period.

Happy tax-free shopping Bay Staters, whether it's via bricks or clicks!

Classroom photo courtesy of moare and morgueFile.com

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