Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to Teachers: Go ahead, pay off your mask and hand sanitizer costs

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Although instructional materials often include books, paper, and pencils, classroom supplies in a pandemic era also include masks, face shields, hand sanitizers, and air purifiers. Now, teachers can include those purchases in the $ 250 deduction educators get each year for their out-of-pocket expenses, the Internal Revenue Service confirmed Thursday.

The list of personal protective equipment eligible for the deduction includes masks, sanitizers, soap, hand sanitizer, gloves, air purifiers, tape for social distancing within the classroom, and physical barriers, such as a Plexiglass panel to hang on the classroom wall. a desk. The deduction may cover other items that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to stop the spread of COVID-19, the IRS said. The announcement comes a week before the formal start of tax season on February 12, when teachers and everyone else can begin filing their 2020 income tax returns with the IRS. It also follows a tumultuous time for educators and students. Schools across the country moved away in early spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In the fall, many rural school districts returned to face-to-face classes, while many urban districts, with notable exceptions such as New York City’s hybrid model, remained remote and suburban districts offered a combination of approaches. Debates over reopening schools could turn fierce, at times pitting district officials and parents lobbying for face-to-face classes against safety-conscious teachers and unions. School districts were projected to spend more than $ 25 billion on personal protective equipment, according to EducationWeek, citing the Association of School Superintendents. But there are still too many teachers to pay, said the American Federation of Teachers, a union of 1.6 million members. “The additional support is welcome,” the AFT said in the tax announcement. Still, “it is inexcusable for educators to be trusted to purchase their own PPE to protect themselves and their children in a pandemic. … We do not know of any other profession in which workers must subsidize what should be a cost assumed by an employer as a necessity of work; and the COVID crisis has exposed this outrageous burden for all to see. “The news was a welcome gesture, but more needs to be done, according to Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators, an organization of professional teachers. non-unionized. He welcomed the Biden administration’s plans to bring money to the district facing pandemic budget problems, and more PPE for teachers and students. “However, individual educators have also suffered the financial burden necessary to meet the technology demands of distance learning, “he said. This year’s deduction should be $ 1,000 and allow for $ 400 in internet expenses, Sharkey urged. The IRS says people eligible for the deduction include K-12 teachers and any person who is “an instructor, counselor, principal, or assistant in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year.” Two teachers who are married and filing a joint return can claim up to $ 500. The educator’s expense deduction is called an “above the line” deduction. That means the taxpayer can take the standard deduction and then take this deduction as well. The standard deduction is a very common option as opposed to an itemized deduction. More than 87% of taxpayers chose the standard deduction when filing their taxes in 2019. The standard deduction this year is $ 12,400 for people under 65 and $ 24,800 for married couples filing jointly. Some tax experts were already anticipating that personal protective equipment would be suitable for the deduction this tax season. “It’s really whatever material the teacher deems” ordinary and necessary, “Robert Greene, an accountant who specializes in tax returns for teachers, told MarketWatch.