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Teachers deserve more than the current paltry tax deduction for classroom costs

School supplies_evelyn-giggles_flickr-creative-commons-2757067856_7e7ac6a087_o-1
Photo by Evelyn Giggles, Flickr CC

Schools nationwide are open. That means lots of teachers' bank accounts are taking hits.

Last year, the National School Supply and Equipment Association's (NSSEA) survey found that educators spent an average of $750 of their own money to ensure their students have what they need to learn. Another report by 

Expect that cost to increase this term — another report by My eLearning World sets this year's per-teacher cost at $820 — in part due to inflation.

Some small tax savings for teachers: Inflation also helped out a bit with a of tax relief for teachers. On 2022 tax returns, eligible school employees can claim up to $300 ($600 if two teachers in a household file jointly) for unreimbursed out-of-pocket supply costs.

That's a nominal $50 ($100 for married teachers) increase from where this tax break had been stuck for too many years.

Covered expenses include books, computer equipment, and other supplemental classroom materials.

You don't have to itemize to claim this tax break, but do save those supplies' receipts just in case. You'll enter those costs, up to the cap limit, on Form 1040's Schedule 1, the Part II Adjustments to Income, highlighted in the form excerpt below.

Schedule 1 Form 1040 adjustments to income above the line deductions 2021
See more tax forms and more about them at Talking Tax Forms.

Not nearly enough: But as the NSSEA survey notes, the tax break isn't going to cover many teachers' out-of-pocket classroom supplies costs.

In fact, those personal payments were among the reasons some teachers are considering leaving the profession.

Another NSSEA teacher survey, this one released Aug. 1 on challenges facing teachers, found that personal supply costs are a factor when educators consider career changes. As the response excerpt below shows, those expenses came in just a percentage point behind insufficient pay.

Why Teachers Said They Are Considering
Leaving the Profession Before the 2022/2023 School Year

80% I am burned out.
64% There is not enough support staff to help teachers.
63% My pay is too low.
62% I spend too much of my money on classroom materials.
57% Teachers are not treated with respect in my community.


Legislators should do more: The classroom materials survey response is just one of the reasons that this weekend's Saturday Shout Out goes to Renu Zaretsky's item TaxVox item "The Educator Expense Deduction: It May Be Time To Trade This Token Benefit."

"There's good reason to believe a substantial share of educators take advantage of the deduction, though we don’t know for sure how many," writes Zaretsky in the Tax Policy Center blog post.

But, she asks, is the deduction doing enough for educators? Consensus is no.

And Zaretsky says tax policymakers could think bigger, and use the deduction's $1 billion in annual revenue loss more effectively.

Since it's a Saturday Shout Out item, I'll let you read it for details. I will say, however, that another reason I chose Zaretsky's blog post is that I come from a family of public-school teachers and am a proud graduate of such a system. I totally agree that current educators aren't getting nearly enough credit, tax or otherwise, for all they do.

That's especially true nowadays where far too many teachers are being emotionally and sometimes literally abused, by administrators, parents, students, and politicians.

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