How Much Can Teachers Write Off on Taxes + How to Keep Track

I want to let you in on a little secret…if you are a k-12 teacher in the United States, you can write off educator expenses on your taxes!  It’s true!  But knowing that bit of super-important information leads us to the even bigger question which is how much can teachers write off on taxes?

That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.  I’m going to share…

  • how much you can write off (and the annual limit),
  • what items actually qualify as teacher tax deductions, 
  • whether you are eligible or not, and
  • what you need to do to claim this during tax time.

Now, any time we discuss taxes, I have to give you the standard disclaimer…I am not a tax expert.  

That means you need to consult with a tax professional (or at the very least refer to the latest Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines) for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the educator expense deduction.  

But since I am an educator who has claimed this deduction during tax season for years, I can provide some general information that I know will be helpful!

How Much Can Teachers Write Off on Taxes?

As of 2022, eligible educators can deduct up to $300 for out-of-pocket classroom expenses as long as they are unreimbursed employee expenses.  

This deduction, called the educator expense tax deduction, is an above-the-line deduction, meaning it can be taken even if you take the standard deduction and don’t itemize deductions.  

The really cool part about this is if you are married to a teacher and filing a joint tax return, you can actually claim up to $600!

Now if you have been teaching for any length of time, you know as well as I do that this maximum deduction is probably nowhere near what you spend on out-of-pocket expenses for your classroom and students.  

But I am looking at this from a “glass half full” mindset, and just being thankful that we get to write off anything.

So essentially, you want to be able to have at least $300 in relevant receipts to back up your claims of spending this amount of money.

But what exactly can legally be purchased by teachers and then written off as part of this special deduction?

4 Deductions Educators Can Write Off

1. Classroom Supplies

As classroom teachers, we spend so much of our own money on classroom supplies. These qualified expenses include items like pencils, erasers, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, computer equipment, books, TpT resources, copy paper, supplementary materials, and the list goes on.

This is even more prevalent in low income areas where school funding is minimal, but students still need the same school supplies to learn.

So anything that you buy for your classroom and/or students can be tax write-offs.  But the key to being able to claim this specific deduction is you HAVE to keep your receipts.  

Any time you deal with tax law or the IRS, it is essential that you keep records.

Make your life easy by keeping a file for any purchases you make related to your classroom.

Just drop the receipt into the file and leave it until you are ready to start gathering your documentation in order to file your federal income tax return.

2. Professional Development Expenses 

If you pay for professional development courses or workshops related to your teaching job out of your own pocket, you may be able to deduct those expenses.  

Obviously, you need to keep your receipt or invoice and you have to be able to show/prove how it’s relevant to your job in the event you are audited.

So let’s say you purchase a course to learn more about the science of reading, you download your receipt and keep it in a file so that when tax season rolls around, you have documentation for it.  

Then at any point in time, you can access that receipt if questioned about its legitimacy.

Remember, these have to be unreimbursed expenses.  In other words, you can’t pay for a course or training, be reimbursed by your school district, and then add the same amount to your total out-of-pocket expenses.  

Once you have been reimbursed, it is no longer an out-of-pocket expense.

3. Home Office Deduction

Classroom teachers who use a portion of their home exclusively and regularly for administrative or educational tasks may be eligible for the home office deduction.

This allows you to deduct a portion of your home expenses, such as rent, mortgage interest, utilities, and maintenance, based on the percentage of your home used for the office. 

This is especially important for online teachers because you are actually teaching from your office space.

The key to this particular tax deduction is the fact that the space needs to be EXCLUSIVELY used for teaching activities.  

In other words, you can’t write off part of your kitchen, den, or bedroom even if you teach from that space or work in that space because it is not exclusively used for those activities.

In my case, I have a dedicated office space that I claim on my taxes.  This area is used exclusively for teaching/business-related tasks.  

Now I have to complete additional forms when I file my taxes because I am a business coach, website designer, blogger, interventionist, and TpT author.  So I don’t just claim the educational tax benefit.  

As a business owner, I am able to receive additional tax benefits and write off opportunities.

Because of this, I have been claiming a portion of my home as my office for several years and will continue to do so in future years.  

But you might be wondering what that has to do with you.

Well, if you are interested in starting your own business working from home, you can take measurements of your office space by calculating the square footage and claiming a portion of your mortgage expenses as a business write off.  

Trust me when I tell you this is super-helpful.

If you are not a business owner and you are just interested in the home office deduction as it relates to the $300 you can claim as an educator, the same rule applies.  

You will simply calculate what the mortgage cost is for using your office space to grade papers, design PowerPoint presentations for your students, or create lesson plans.  

While you won’t be able to claim all of the additional business owner deductions, you will absolutely be able to count this cost toward the $300 total.

4. Continuing Education Expenses

If you pay for professional development or continuing education courses, you may be able to deduct these expenses. You may see this referred to as lifetime learning credit.

The most important thing to note about continuing education expenses is that the investment you are making for these courses or trainings are required by the school district or state for maintaining teaching certifications or improving your skills.  

Therefore, if you decide to pursue an additional license or further your degree, you MIGHT be able to add that to your itemized list of expenses that add up to the $300.

On the other had, you may discover that continuing education expenses are not eligible.

That’s why you always want to consult a tax professional BEFORE tax season.

This ensures that you’re complying with all tax regulations and that you’re informed of any current tax reform issues which could affect your eligibility.

Deductions can be subject to certain limitations and conditions. And because of the complexity of tax laws, it’s essential that you keep accurate and detailed records of all expenses.  

This legally protects you.

Finally, you want to always refer to the most recent IRS publication and seek personalized advice from a tax professional to get the most accurate information regarding teacher tax deductions for any given tax year.

I know this can feel like a daunting task, but it really isn’t hard. The key is just to keep all of the receipts from any purchases you make for your classroom.

Then when tax season rolls around, you have all of the evidence you need to show your tax preparer.