Teachers and Other School Professionals Can Deduct Unreimbursed Educator Expenses

If you are a teacher and paid for classroom supplies during 2019 out of your own pocket, you may be able to claim the Educator Expense Deduction. Qualifying educators may deduct up to $250 in unreimbursed expenses on their 2019 tax returns.

For joint filers who are both educators, the deduction limit is $500, as long as both filers have at least $250 in unreimbursed expenses. For example, if you had $350 in unreimbursed educator expenses in 2019, while your spouse had only $160 in qualifying expenses, your maximum joint deduction would be $410 ($250 for you, plus $160 for your spouse).

You are an eligible educator if you:

  • Are a teacher, counselor, principal or classroom aide at an elementary or secondary school (grades K through 12).
  • Work at least 900 hours at the school during the school year.
  • Do not receive reimbursement from your school for the educator expenses you wish to deduct.

Examples of qualifying unreimbursed expenses include:

  • Books and classroom supplies (folders, notebooks, crayons, paper, etc.)
  • Sports and athletic equipment and supplies if you teach health or physical education
  • Computer equipment, including software and peripherals like flash drives or a printer
  • Professional development workshops and courses

Note, however, that your deduction may be limited if any of the following apply to you:

  • You exclude interest from certain U.S. savings bonds on your tax forms because you paid qualified higher education expenses.
  • You received a distribution from a qualified state tuition program that you exclude from your income.
  • You made a tax-free withdrawal from a Coverdell education savings account.
  • You received expense reimbursements from your school that are not shown in Box 1 of your form W-2.

In these cases, you can usually only deduct unreimbursed expenses to the extent that they exceed the interest, distribution, withdrawal or reimbursement that you received.