Tax Change Eliminates Break for Teachers
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Teachers are about to take a small hit in the wallet. An obscure tax deduction will soon expire, a rule that recognizes one of the not-so-little kindnesses teachers perform - buying school supplies for their students.
NPR's Larry Abramson reports.
LARRY ABRAMSON: On nearly three and a half million tax returns, people claim some deduction for what the IRS calls educator expenses.
Nancy Scarborough(ph) is one of them. She teaches special ed. at Mineral Springs Middle School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I caught up with her after school one day and she gave me a little history tour of the outdated items she's supposed to teach with, like a vintage globe.
Ms. NANCY SCARBOROUGH (Teacher, Mineral Springs Middle School): Yeah, I mean if you look over here, I mean we still have Yugoslavia going on there.
ABRAMSON: You still got West and East Germany.
Ms. SCARBOROUGH: Yeah. All of Europe is - I mean it's just old.
ABRAMSON: Scarborough teaches in one of those trailer classrooms. She's done her best to make it cheery and to make up for what the district doesn't give her. Sometimes that means making a donation, like the map of the world hanging on the wall.
Ms. SCARBOROUGH: That came through my National Geographic subscription at home. But yeah --
ABRAMSON: It's your map?
Ms. SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, it is definitely my map. I would like for my kids to have particular notebooks and a lot of times they just can't afford to get them. So, I'll go out and buy them.
ABRAMSON: One teacher I talked to said she spends a hundred bucks a month on school supplies and food for her kids. And that teacher did not bother to take advantage of the deduction, which only covers two hundred and fifty dollars in expenses. Do you do that? Buy office supplies for your workplace?
Personally, I make sure NPR reimburses me for every paperclip. But teachers like Scarborough just shrug their shoulders and keep spending. It's as though they can't help themselves.
Ms. SCARBOROUGH: I know I've seen a list of things that I'm supposed to have in my room, but you know I don't have any of them.
ABRAMSON: Why is this deduction going away? That part of the story isn't very interesting. Something about tax-extenders and efforts to repeal the federal estate tax. One of those eight-tier budget stories that makes your eyes glaze over. There's some interest in saving the deduction, but if congress doesn't get around to it, teachers who give to their kids will soon be asked to give some more to the tax man.
Larry Abramson, NPR News.