From the Archives: The $250 Educator Expense Deduction and College Professors

It’s a holiday week so I am re-publishing popular posts from the past. This post deals with whether or not a college professor can take the $250 deduction for educator expenses.

One update to the last sentence, on the part about the professor instead taking a miscellaneous itemized deduction — “tax reform” has taken away miscellaneous itemized deductions starting in 2018, so now a college professor’s classroom expenses are not deductible at all.


Originally published August 19, 2016

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Question from a website visitor: can an adjunct professor take the $250 front-side deduction for teacher supplies.

Short answer: no. No college professor (adjunct or otherwise) can take the $250 front-side deduction for teacher supplies.

Longer answer: A deduction of up to $250 is available for “eligible educators” to take on the front-side of their federal tax returns. This deduction is allowed as a direct reduction to Adjusted Gross Income and can be taken regardless of whether or not the teacher takes itemized deductions. See Code Section 62(a)(2)(D).

The definition of an “eligible educator” is:

(A)n 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.

From Code Section 62(d)(1)(A).

This means pre-school teachers and college professors are NOT eligible for this deduction. Their classroom supply expenses would need to go on Schedule A as an itemized deduction subject to the 2% of AGI limitation.