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Group seeks higher federal tax deductions for educators

Wants expenses deduction raised to $1,000 from $250

Higher federal tax deductions for educators are wanted from Congress by the Association of American Educators.

The California-based national nonunion professional association, serving educators in all 50 states, wants the new Congress to increase the existing educator expense deduction to $1,000 from $250 and to permit up to $400 of home internet expenses–a necessity for many educators to continue hybrid, remote or supplemental online learning–as a qualifying expense, according to a media release from the Association of American Educators.

The proposal, first announced in 2020, would quadruple the amount educators can save, which is currently an estimated $55 for most educators taking the full deduction. If fully implemented and utilized this change would save America’s educators up to $500 million on their federal income taxes, starting with 2021 taxes.

“Educators have always dipped into their own pockets to cover classroom expenses, fill gaps in needed supplies and technology, and stretched every dollar to meet their students’ learning goals,” said the group’s Executive Director Colin Sharkey. “This necessary expansion of the educator expense deduction supports the leadership educators have shown in adapting to the challenges associated with remote and hybrid instruction.”

The law currently allows educators, including K-12 teachers, instructors, counselors, principals and aides to deduct up to $250 ($500 for married educators filing jointly) of qualifying expenses, including books, supplies, computer equipment and software, and supplementary materials. For 2020, PPE is also a qualifying expense. Federal studies reveal that nearly all teachers report spending their own money on school supplies without reimbursement, with about 3.7 million educators taking this deduction.

The current deduction returns an estimated $200 million to educators; this proposed change would increase that amount to $500-800 million. By comparison, the federal government spend approximately $79 billion each year on education programs.

The educator expense deduction was championed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and first passed into law in 2002. The deduction required regular renewal until the 2015 Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) law made the deduction permanent and tied the deduction to inflation. The deduction was preserved in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

While increases to the deduction have been proposed in the past, including in 2019, the proposals were combined with other controversial tax changes, making the legislation dead-on-arrival. Previous proposals have also not included home internet, a modern necessity for schools relying on remote and hybrid learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

“With hybrid instruction and its increasing associated costs now a part of our education system, this proposal deserves serious consideration and debate without delay,” Sharkey said. “This means a standalone bill that should attract broad bipartisan support.”

The Association of American Educators membership is $16.50 per month and includes $2 million professional liability insurance, employment rights coverage, professional resources, and many other benefits. Classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, student teachers, university professors, and supporters can learn more at aaeteachers.org.


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