IRS offers guidance for teachers on deducting PPE expenses


The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance on how educators can deduct out-of-pocket expenses for personal protective equipment to safeguard teachers in the classroom during the pandemic.

The guidance, released Thursday in Revenue Procedure 2021-15, provides information on one of the provisions of the stimulus package that Congress approved in December. It offers a safe harbor for eligible educators, who can deduct unreimbursed expenses for PPE items such as face masks; disinfectant; hand soap; hand sanitizer; disposable gloves; tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing; physical barriers such as clear plexiglass; air purifiers; and other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be used for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The guidance comes at a time when school districts are under pressure to reopen classrooms and as more teachers are getting vaccinated, even though vaccines are still hard to come by in many parts of the country. With local and state budgets running short on revenue, many teachers have needed to buy their own PPE to protect themselves and their students from the virus after they returned to the classroom after much of last year spent on remote learning. There has been resistance to reopening schools in many parts of the country, and this week, the city of San Francisco actually filed a lawsuit against its own school district to force it to reopen.

Students wearing protective masks work at their desks in a seventh grade classroom at Logan Jr. High School in Princeton, Illinois.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The IRS guidance may help provide some help to schoolteachers looking for a way to reopen their classrooms safely. “The educator expense deduction rules permit eligible educators to deduct up to $250 of qualifying expenses per year ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each),” said the IRS. “Eligible educators include any individual who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year.”

The tax deduction is for expenses paid or incurred during the tax year. It applies to unreimbursed expenses paid or incurred after March 12, 2020, for PPE, disinfectant and other supplies used to prevent the spread of COVID–19 in the classroom.

Teachers will be able to claim the deduction on Form 1040, Form 1040-SR or Form 1040-NR (also attach Schedule 1 (Form 1040)). For more information, see the instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR or the instructions for Form 1040-NR.

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