Teachers Spend 3x More On Classroom Expenses Than They’re Able To Deduct

It’s Tax Day in America, and for many teachers, tax season serves as a sobering reminder of just how much money they have to spend out of their own pockets on their classrooms versus how little they’re able to claim for deductions.

The educator expense deduction was enacted 20 years in ago in 2002, allowing teachers to deduct up to $250 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses when filing their federal tax returns. For the 2021 tax year being filed now, the maximum deduction is still $250.

That’s right, the teacher expense deduction has remained unchanged from the 2002 through 2021 tax years. 

The problem?

Teachers spend an average of $750 of their own money each year on classroom expenses — 3 times the amount they’re able to deduct.

In total, teachers across the US shelled out approximately $2.8 billion on essential items to help their students succeed, like books, software, pencils, paper, cleaning supplies, and other materials.

teacher spending

Many have argued that teacher deductions pale in comparison to those afforded to other industries.

Some teachers are even spending thousands of dollars each year on classroom expenses, eating the cost themselves.


In fact, teacher spending on classroom supplies has increased by 25% just since 2015. Meanwhile, their salaries aren’t even keeping up with inflation, and they’re still only allowed to deduct the same amount for expenses they were two decades ago.

teacher pay vs inflation

If there’s one small bit of good news, it’s that the annual deduction limit for educators will increase slightly to $300 for the 2022 tax year and will rise in $50 increments in future years based on inflation adjustments, but the reality is that’s still not nearly enough.

At a time when we’re dealing with a serious shortage of educators (there are 567,000 fewer teachers on the job now than there were before the pandemic and a reported 55% of those still teaching are considering leaving the profession sooner than they originally planned), is it really wise to make things harder than they need to be for teachers?

If you’re a teacher, we’d love to hear from you. How much do you spend in an average school year on supplies for your classroom?

2 thoughts on “Teachers Spend 3x More On Classroom Expenses Than They’re Able To Deduct”

  1. I’m a teacher in Canada so our tax deductions are a bit different. I believe we can claim up to $1000 but we get only a percentage back. Federally I think it’s 25% and in my province it is in the works but I think it will be about 10-15% and I have to wait to claim it until it becomes law. So in the end, if I spend $1000 I might get $400 back, which is better than I thought but still not perfect. I saved all my receipts for the 2021 year for the first time and I spent about $1000 on books, pandemic related materials, and other supplies. Books are definitely the biggest expense for me, in 8 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve never been given a dollar for buying books for my classroom. I also buy things on Facebook market place or garage sales – no receipts for those! It’s crazy how much we have to spend.

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  2. I spend $500+ per year AND I’ve been teaching for 25 years so I’ve got many items I reuse each year. I can’t imagine how much newer teachers have to spend!

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