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Local News

January 11, 2014

Teachers foot bill as write-off dies

Delaware Academy sixth-grade teacher Ro Avila said she spends more than $1,000 of her own money some years on books and supplies for her classroom, as well as hygiene, clothing and food items for her less affluent students. Avila and other teachers could formerly write off up to $250 on their taxes for out-of-pocket classroom expenses like these, but not any more.

The ability to help offset elementary and secondary teachers’ out-of-pocket costs came through the Educator Expense Deduction, which, along with 54 other tax breaks, expired at midnight on Dec. 31.

Area superintendents and educators said this week they are disappointed with the expiration of the deduction. Several educators said they were unaware that it no longer exists.

Teachers’ spending on books, computer equipment, related software and services and other supplementary materials and supplies used in the classroom could be deducted “above the line,” meaning teachers could claim it even if they did not itemize their spending.

Paul Ahearn, president and owner of The Tax Professionals in Oneonta, said the Educator Expense Deduction is an example of laws written with “sunset provisions,” which means the law will no longer be in effect after a certain date, unless it is extended.

According to Ahearn, the teacher tax deduction has temporarily expired many times in the past, and its expiration doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gone for good. For example, he said, the law expired last year, but was extended by Congress late in the year.

“It almost seems like a game they play each year,” Ahearn said. “Congress allows the tax breaks to expire and then usually renews them later on in the year. It makes planning ahead for taxes difficult.”

Stephanie Valle, the deputy chief of staff for Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said the expiration of the deduction will have a significantly detrimental impact on teachers who use their own money to buy classroom supplies.

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