Art Teachers Get a Higher Tax Deduction for Out-of-Pocket Supplies

This tax season, teachers across the country can deduct $300 for school supplies they purchased out of pocket, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced earlier this month. The $50 increase (from the current $250 annual limit) is the first since the IRS started offering these deductions in 2002.

The IRS added that the annual limit will rise in $50 increments in future years based on inflation adjustments. It’s an acknowledgment that teachers don’t receive enough money to supply their classrooms, but the federal government has also reported that $300 will not cover out-of-pocket expenses for the vast majority of educators.

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The most recent data comes from a 2018 Department of Education report that asked teachers how much they spent on supplies in the 2014–2015 school year. The study found that 94% of teachers had to use their own money, spending an annual average of $479 (over $600 today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The 2018 report also found that 7% of teachers spent more than $1,000 out of pocket.

The deductions are available for public and private school teachers, counselors, principals, and aids who spend at least 900 hours in the classroom over the course of the year. Art teachers, who usually need more expensive materials like paint, pastels, and colored pencils, are likely to spend more money than average on supplies.

Jake Jacobs, an art teacher at Bronx Park Middle School, told Hyperallergic that he spends around $600 out of pocket on supplies each year. Yet even with his own hefty contribution, he still relies on outside aid.

“I have always gotten extra supplies donated from businesses and friends,” Jacobs said. “Sometimes I go to yard sales and the people give me a break when they hear I’m a teacher buying for my classes.”

Nonprofits like Materials For the Arts help too, and so do parents: During the 2019–2020 fiscal year, 43% of New York City parents donated art supplies.

For Jacobs, the deduction increase of $50 is just a drop in the bucket. “But I’ll take it,” he said.


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