A Box of School Supplies

Teachers Shouldn’t Have to Pay for School Supplies Out of Their Own Pockets

Do you remember the days when teachers had to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets? In those days, teachers had to buy basic supplies like paste, poster paint, and maybe even software because their school systems couldn’t afford them.

When teachers’ contributions in this area became known, parents and other concerned people in their communities often stepped up and contributed money to help. There were even efforts to raise money through crowdsourcing. There was widespread acceptance of the principle that it was wrong to have teachers pay for supplies that should have been provided by their school systems.

That Was Before the Pandemic

As teachers have had to tool up to teach from their own homes during the time of Covid-19, the situation has become, if anything, even more extreme, as teachers have been buying more expensive equipment so they can continue to teach, including . . .

  • Newer and more powerful laptops than their school systems had available
  • Upgraded internet access
  • New computer peripherals, including external USB cameras, green screens, and other equipment to improve lesson quality
  • New cloud storage services and external hard drives to store students’ work
  • Subscriptions to apps like Office 365 and even video production software to create more appealing lesson materials

With a list like that, it becomes clear that teachers can easily spend a good deal of money to upgrade the quality of their home offices – in fact, it is not at all difficult to spend $1,000 or more, especially if a new computer is part of the upgrade.

How Can Teachers Recoup that Investment as the Pandemic Winds Down?

Of course, there is nothing to stop a teacher from keeping and using equipment that was purchased for use during the period of teaching from home. But there are a number of options to consider, including . . .

  • Turning equipment over to the school system, which should pay for it and then use it
  • Keeping and using the equipment at home, while taking a tax deduction for it as a home office expense
  • Donating the equipment to a charity, hospital or other organization that needs it, and taking a tax deduction for its appraised value
  • Selling the equipment on the free market (note that you might receive the same financial benefit if you keep it and deduct its value as a home office expense)

One Caveat to Consider . . .

Before taking a tax deduction for a home office, speak with your tax preparer. A CPA we interviewed for this post pointed out the following possible disadvantages of doing so . . .

  • If you deduct part of your home as a home office and do not do so again next year, you could cause problems with your taxes and even trigger an audit
  • If you deduct a portion of your home as a home office and later sell your home, you might need to pay capital gains on the percentage of your home that you once claimed as a home office
  • Claiming part of your home as a home office could cause complications with your homeowner’s insurance policy

The best policy is to ask about those issues before declaring part of your home as a professional space.

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