Among the many frontline workers braving the pandemic are teachers and educators. With many hybrid school schedules in place, many find themselves in an in-person learning setting at least part of the time. Eligible educators can now broaden the list of deductible unreimbursed educator expenses to include protective items used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom. Here is the guidance needed for those who are eligible.
An eligible educator can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each) of any unreimbursed business expenses for classroom materials, such as books, supplies, computers including related software and services or other equipment that the eligible educator uses in the classroom. Supplies for courses on health and physical education qualify only if they are related to athletics.
Eligible educators include any individual who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year.
Rev. Proc. 2021-15 provides guidance related to educators and their expenses under the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, which was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The new law clarifies that unreimbursed expenses paid or incurred after March 12, 2020, by eligible educators for protective items to prevent the spread of COVID-19 qualify for the already-existing educator expense deduction. Note, the allowable deduction was not increased, rather what qualifies for the deduction was expanded to included COVID-19 protective items.
COVID-19 protective items include, but are not limited to:
- face masks;
- disinfectant for use against COVID-19;
- hand soap;
- hand sanitizer;
- disposable gloves;
- tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing;
- physical barriers (for example, clear plexiglass);
- air purifiers; and
- other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be used for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.
Educators should gather their receipts, put them in order, and provide them to their accountant to ensure any allowable educator expenses, including COVID-19 protective items, are deducted on their federal and, if allowable, state returns.