Substitute teachers who pay out-of-pocket expenses related to their job can potentially save hundreds of dollars in federal taxes annually by taking tax deductions. In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service allows substitute educators to take a full deduction on their federal tax returns for most school-related expenses, a process that lowers the amount of income on which these professionals must pay tax. Teachers can only write-off necessary expenses required to perform their job.
The educator expense deduction allows substitute teachers to take up to a $250 deduction if single and $500 deduction if married by filling in line 23 of IRS Form 1040. This deduction applies to unreimbursed expenses paid for books, supplies, equipment, education supplements and computer equipment. To take this deduction, substitute teachers must work as a primary or secondary school teacher and at least 900 hours a year in a classroom.
Substitute educators who exceed the educator expense deduction can still deduct all amounts paid for any supplies directly related to performing their profession by filling out Form 1040, Schedule A and entering their total deduction on line 40 of Form 1040. Because the educator expense deduction lowers adjusted gross income, itemized supply deductions do not offer as much tax benefit to substitute educators.
Substitute teachers can take a standard deduction of 51 cents per mile driven if they have to travel outside of their metropolitan area to teach on a temporary basis and use their own vehicle for the first half 2011 tax year, according to the IRS. The amount increased to 55.5 cents for the second half of the year. They may also deduct the expenses of commercial transport, such as bus and taxi fares. Teachers cannot deduct the cost of a regular commute. They can also deduct 50 percent of the cost of meals, local lodging and entertainment in the case of field trips and school related sporting events.
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Roughly 37.1 percent of teachers are members of unions as of 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Substitute teachers can deduct 100 percent of their union dues on their federal return, and they can deduct all expenses paid to other professional associations related to their work. Professionals who subscribe to trade magazines and other forms of media useful in their profession can write-off their subscription costs.
Substitute teachers who wish to further their education through the pursuit of a postsecondary, professional or graduate degree can deduct the full cost of tuition, books, mandatory electronic equipment and academic fees. Educators who obtain certifications or continuing education credits can write-off their expenses up to 2 percent of their adjusted gross income.