Are you an educator? The IRS has a reminder just for you.
As teachers, administrators and aides have launched into their fall semester, taxes may not be on the top of their list. However, knowing what to keep track of now can help reduce the burden at tax time. The Internal Revenue Service reminds educators that there are three key work-related tax benefits that may help them reduce what they pay in taxes.
Educators can take advantage of tax deductions for qualified expenses related to their profession. The costs many educators incur out-of-pocket include items such as classroom supplies, training and travel.
There are two methods educators can choose for deducting qualified expenses: Claiming the Educator Expense Deduction (up to $250) or, for those who itemize their deductions, claiming eligible work-related expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A.
A third key benefit enables many teachers and other educators to take advantage of various education tax benefits for their ongoing educational pursuits, especially the Lifetime Learning Credit or, in some instances depending on their circumstances, the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Educator Expense Deduction Educators can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each) of unreimbursed business expenses. The educator expense deduction is available even if an educator doesn’t itemize their deductions. To do so, the taxpayer must be a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide for at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law.
Those who qualify can deduct costs like books, supplies, computer equipment and software, classroom equipment and supplementary materials used in the classroom. Expenses for participation in professional development courses are also deductible. Athletic supplies qualify if used for courses in health or physical education.
Itemizing Deductions (Using Schedule A) Often educators have qualifying classroom and professional development expenses that exceed the $250 limit. In that case, the IRS encourages them to claim these excess expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040 or Form 1040NR). In addition, educators can claim other work-related expenses, such as the cost of subscriptions to professional journals, professional licenses and union dues. Transportation expenses may also be deductible in situations such as, for example, where an educator assigned to teach at two different schools needs to drive from one school to the other on the same day.
Miscellaneous deductions of this kind are subject to a two-percent limit. This means that a taxpayer must subtract two percent of their adjusted gross income from the total qualifying miscellaneous deduction amount.
Keeping Records Educators should keep detailed records of qualifying expenses noting the date, amount and purpose of each purchase. This will help prevent a missed deduction at tax time. ...
For September’s National Preparedness Month, the Internal Revenue Service is offering advice to taxpayers who may be affected by storms, fires, floods or other disasters.
Managed and sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Ready Campaign, National Preparedness Month encourages individuals, businesses and organizations to prepare for a variety of disaster and emergency situations.
Create Electronic Copies of Key Documents Taxpayers can help themselves by keeping a duplicate set of key documents, including bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies in a safe place. Store them in a waterproof container and away from the original set. Doing so is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original documents are only provided on paper, these can be scanned into an electronic format. This way, taxpayers can download them to a storage device such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive, or burn them to a CD or DVD.
Document Valuables It’s a good idea to photograph or videotape the contents of any home, especially items of higher value. Documenting these items ahead of time will make it easier to quickly claim any available insurance and tax benefits after the disaster strikes. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. Photographs can help an individual prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Ideally, photos should be stored with a friend or family member who lives outside the area.
Check on Fiduciary Bonds Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.
Don’t Forget to Update Emergency Plans Because a disaster can strike any time, be sure to review emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes. Make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them.
IRS Ready to Help In the case of a federally-declared disaster, an affected taxpayer can call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.
Back copies of previously-filed tax returns and all attachments, including Forms W-2, can be requested by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Alternatively, transcripts showing most line items on these returns can be ordered through the Get Transcript link on IRS.gov, by calling 800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. ...