Teachers and other educators can now deduct out-of-pocket expenses for “COVID-19 protective items” on their tax return, thanks to the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act that was passed in December. And the IRS has just issued guidance to help educators determine what is or isn’t deductible under the new law.

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According to the IRS, deductible supplies include personal protective equipment (PPE) and other items used to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom. Among other things, the list includes:

  • Face masks;
  • Disinfectants;
  • Hand soap;
  • Hand sanitizer;
  • Disposable gloves;
  • Tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing;
  • Physical barriers (e.g., clear plexiglass);
  • Air purifiers; and
  • Other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The deduction is available for up to $250 of unreimbursed cost of COVID-19 protective items paid by an eligible educator after March 12, 2020. An “eligible educator” is anyone who is a kindergarten through 12th grade teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year. The maximum deduction jumps to $500 for a married couple filing a joint return if both spouses are eligible educators – but not more than $250 each.

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Other expenses that were already deductible – such as books, supplies, and other materials used in the classroom – also count toward the $250 (or $500) limit. For 2020 tax returns, the deduction is claimed on Schedule 1, Line 10, of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. The IRS will start accepting 2020 tax returns on February 12, and they are due on April 15, 2021.