Paper cuts: GOP tax plan ends teacher deduction for classroom supplies

The GOP tax overhaul eliminates a $250 deduction by teachers for spending on classroom supplies. (AJC File)

Deep in the GOP tax plan overhaul released last week are changes that some education advocates contend advantage high earners and a school choice agenda at the expense of public education and middle-class families.

Among the chief complaints: The expansion of tax-free 529 college savings plans to k-12. Under the tax rewrite, parents would be able to invest up to $10,000  for education-related expenses, including private school tuition.

Investments in 529 plans grow tax-free and are not taxed when used for qualified higher education expenses. Critics allege families who can afford to invest $10,000 a year can already afford private school tuition. “We are disappointed, but not surprised, that Republicans would incentivize wealthy Americans to set aside more resources for private school education in their bill,” said the National Coalition for Public Education in a statement.

There’s a good discussion of the 529 changes in Mother Jones in which Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow and director of the education policy program at the Urban Institute, says,“If you are trying to save up enough to send your child to a Catholic school for $6,000 a year, the tax benefit on those savings isn’t going to be that much. If you know you are going to send your child to a fancy private school in DC that costs $40,000 a year, then you could start stocking money away into one of these accounts and get a pretty big tax benefit. But who’s going to get that? It’s going to be pretty wealthy people.”

The 529 expansion to k-12  expenditures aligns with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ campaign to provide parents with greater school choice.  “529s are a strong and proven tool to help make education more affordable for middle-class families,” she said in a statement. “This is a good step forward, reflecting that education should be an investment in individual students, not systems. I look forward to continuing to work with Congressional leaders to ensure all families have equal access to the education that meets their child’s unique needs.”

(The House Republicans would allow unborn children to be named 529 beneficiaries with language that cites  a “child in utero” and  “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”)

Another disappointment to educators: To fund corporate tax breaks, the plan eliminates some current deductions, including a $250 tax deduction allowed teachers for the cost of classrooms supplies. This deduction became a permanent part of the tax code in 2015.  A survey last year found teachers on average spend $600 of their own money on basic classroom supplies each year.

The tax bill overhaul targets several key higher education benefits, including:

•Americans paying off student loans can no longer deduct interest on those loans.

•Also gone is a tuition tax break for university employees and their families. Now, faculty and staff who get a discount on the cost to send their kids to their college don’t have to count those tuition breaks as income. The new plan changes that. Also impacted are graduate students who, in exchange for teaching assistant jobs, get tuition waivers. Those waivers are not treated as income now, but would be under the plan. To see how that might affect a grad student’s tax return, check out this Center for American Progress graphic.)

•As the LA Times reports: “The tax bill also would repeal a tax break that helps ordinary families pay for higher education. Interest payable on U.S. savings bonds issued after 1989 is exempt from tax if it’s used to pay for university tuition and fees as long as family income is less than $147,250 (for couples). The tax bill eliminates the break. Combined with the repeal of the deduction for interest on student loans, which we covered here, these rollbacks would put more than $45 billion into the pockets of the wealthy, at the expense of university students and teachers.”

Teacher groups have voiced opposition to the plan including the National Education Association.

“The tax plan released by House Republican leaders and backed by President Trump is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest individuals and corporations funded on the backs of students and working families,’ said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.  “Expanding education tax loopholes in order for wealthy families to stash away money for private school will hurt neighborhood public schools and students. Similarly, as educators spend more and more of their own funds each year to buy basic essentials, Republican leaders chose to ignore the sacrifice made by those who work in our nation’s public schools to make sure students have adequate books, pencils, paper and art supplies.”

Here is a video that explains some of this:

 

 

Reader Comments 0

76 comments
Richard Gnann III
Richard Gnann III

Full disclosure Ive taken this credit many times, it's actually a credit, and the hodge podge of all Swiss cheese tax credits needs to come out of the tax code - address this concern elsewhere and lower the actual rates.

Carolyn Parsons Akridge
Carolyn Parsons Akridge

I don't mind losing the educator tax credit either if things can be simplified. We have bigger concerns (Healthcare, retirement plans, etc.) that more significantly impact our take home pay.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Interesting.  The big story here is the doubling of the standard deduction, which will positively impact EVERYONE who has taxable income.  But yet, educators get upset over the abolition of a paltry $250 deduction.


But, but, but, the WEALTHY are going to get a break.  Of course they are, who the hell do you think pays the majority of the taxes?  Households with incomes in excess of $100k pay over 80% of taxes.


The expansion of 529 accounts to K-12 is a wonderful thing.  Y'all do realize that the "wealthy" people who take advantage of these accounts and send their children to private school still pay property taxes don't you?  School systems still get the money from ad valorem taxes but don't have to expend the money to educate their kids.


Hopefully, we can get this tax reform through Congress without too many "bridges to nowhere" or special exemptions.  It is estimated that Americans expend 8.9 BILLION hours to comply with the current code.  That is a real cost.

EightBurros
EightBurros

The rich get richer, the rest get hosed---it never changes.

Bonnie Payne Kendrick
Bonnie Payne Kendrick

Congressman Buddy Carter Senator David Perdue Senator Johnny Isakson Shame on all of you & your #GOP cronies!

Amy Sims Austin
Amy Sims Austin

It's ending most deductions people. And doubling the standard deduction. Unless you are able to line item deduct (most don't have enough line item deductions to beat the standard deduction) then you will probably come out ahead. But rest assured. By the time this passes through congress the reform won't even resemble itself.....

Jen Falco
Jen Falco

And mortgage interest on homes less than $500,000, and student loan interest.

Carolyn Parsons Akridge
Carolyn Parsons Akridge

This would be for the 2018 tax year? So, current graduate students serving as teaching assistants would have tuition waivers treated as income beginning in January? And then potentially lose the deduction for interest on any loans as they enter the workforce? Am I reading that part right? They are getting hit twice?

Daniele Xenos
Daniele Xenos

Attention class...everyone who's surprised, please raise your hand. No? No one? Ok.

jerryeads
jerryeads

As you may remember, Maureen, my own research -- now almost 10 years ago -- surveying 20,000 of our then 119,000 Georgia teachers, showed that they spent a median $500 of their own money per year. Put that in perspective: That's just under 60 million dollars just in Georgia that our teachers put into educating our kids. THAT is only one more indication of how badly this state (and most others) underfund our schools. The primary consequences of the Republicans cutting the deduction will be (1) that even fewer good people will choose to teach (and more will leave) and (2) your kids' education will become even more severely underfunded. Even though at a 30% tax bracket that only means a real difference of $75, the perceived impact to teachers of the government putting yet another screw into their backs should be fairly substantial --especially given that the elimination of that deduction will go to funding tax cuts for those who make in an hour what teachers do in a year.

And yes, Tony, you're exactly right.

FlaTony
FlaTony

The tax bill, in its current form, is laden with multiple tax advantages for upper income people and is taking away many of the tax breaks that have been offered across the board. This teacher tax break has always been offensive to me because of it underlying message - "We are not giving you what you need to run your classroom and we know you'll spend your own money to get stuff. As a kind gesture, we will let you claim up to $250 on your taxes."

J260
J260

So teachers aren't outraged that their employer expects them to spend $500 - $1,000 per year of their own money on job aids, but ARE outraged about losing the insignificant associated tax deduction.


Liberals truly are sheep.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@J260Most teachers don't lose anything, they gain. The deduction is capped at $250 now, it will be absorbed into the $12,000/24,000 standard deduction, which means expenses beyond the $250 will be effectively covered by the standard tax deduction for most teachers.


The left and the corporate welfare types crave their targeted deductions and "special treatments" under a complex tax code. Eventually all the various interests battle for  favors, which is where the tax code has us now. The current proposal is a step back to a more simple, equitable, and economically expansive tax code (though I would contend it stops far short of the ideal, the ideal is not going to pass through the establishment-laden Senate).

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Gotta love AJC for trying to paint this a Trump fail. I’m a teacher (currently at home with a grand baby until 2019) and have always bought items for my classroom, but have NEVER used any of it as a tax deduction. I’d be willing to bet that most teachers are like me. And exactly how much does that “teacher deduction” save you? I’d suggest very little. So, it’s not needed. Plus, most of my purchases weren’t at all a dire NECESSITY that was needed, nor did they effect my ability to teach if they had not been purchased. So? Please get real here... your bias is more disturbing than any lack of a tax deduction for teacher’s classroom WANTS.

Ashley Langford
Ashley Langford

When you spend $1k or more a year (some years mine is over 5k), yes, that amount helps!

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Ashley Langford not sure where you teach, but I have never heard of anyone spending 5k a year, and I assure you that much of that 5k is spent on things you desire not need. How I know that is because most teachers cannot afford to spend 1k or much less 5k in their classrooms. So, how nice it is that you have the funds to do so. Which proves the point I made... Most items being bought by teachers are wants not necessities. Thus, deductions aren’t needed for most teachers.

Brianne Turgeon
Brianne Turgeon

I suppose you can speak that way if you've never taught at a school where kids come to school wearing blankets because they don't have coats. Or any school supplies.

Michael Campbell
Michael Campbell

You shouldn't assume all teachers can afford the cost out of their pockets. I can't.

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Brianne Turgeon I have taught for 21 years in Title 1 schools, so certainly I have dealt with underprivileged children. Not sure how that relates to spending 1K to 5k in the classroom. We utilize and support our local PTO who do an excellent job with fundraising & buying needed & some desired items for our schools. We have a clothes closet and have people and churches who donate such needed items like jackets, shoes, clothes, book bags, supplies, etc. for students who need them. Most teachers like myself, do not and cannot afford to spend thousands on our classrooms. Thus, the tax deduction is a mute point. Those teachers who are rich may spend that much $$ on items they desire, but I assure you no classroom NEEDS 1K to 5K in supplies a year that have to be purchased by the teacher.

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Michael Campbell that’s my point... MOST teachers cannot afford to spend that money on their classrooms, so the tax deduction isn’t needed by most teachers because we don’t spend enough for it to even make a difference on our tax return. As bad as I’d like to have an extra $500, 1K or 5K to outfit my classroom with some extra items every year... it’s not a reality for me as my checks have always gone to pay bills at my own house.

Melinda Nguyen
Melinda Nguyen

I spend money in my classroom every year. I see the deduction as at least some type of recognition for that personal financial sacrifice. It's not much.. but it's something.

Ashley Langford
Ashley Langford

Angie Baucom Powell how nice that you can assume so much about one’s ability to spend on their classroom. I work in Title I schools. No, my expenses weren’t all necessary, but the majority were. I also bought my kids’ clothing. Being married with no children for many years allowed me to be generous with my students, who are my children and always will be. I have worked in multiple schools, and some of them expected us to buy all of our supplies (markers, paper, pencils, etc.). In those same schools I had to purchase almost all the entire classrooms’ supplies as well because only about 5-10% of my students brought them. One school in particular had 0 parent participation in a PTO program. The only time parents would show up is when they were fed. Thanks for assessing my needs without even knowing me.

Ashley Langford
Ashley Langford

Brianne Turgeon it’s Easy for her because she’s assuming everyone has an active enough PTO to support the kids with none. She may have worked in Title I schools but she clearly hasn’t seen the worst of the worst if she’s fortunate to have the things she mentioned.

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Melinda Nguyen To each his own... I don’t need any recognition... money wise or “pat on the back” wise for what I sacrifice for students. And believe me, I know the sacrifices teachers make. We put our heart and souls into our jobs. There are many sacrifices made, but it’s what I do because I LOVE it! There is no job that would be any more fulfilling or worthwhile to me. How awesome it is that I am the single most important factor in a child’s learning! I know that, and I could not care any less if anyone else knows it. It’s not the school, it’s not the curriculum, it’s not the administration, it’s not all of the training, it’s not the supplies I have or don’t have...IT’S ME! It’s me that impacts every student’s life. So, to be upset about some little deduction on a tax form being slashed...??? It just doesn’t rank high on my list of things to get my feathers ruffled over & start acting like “OMG epic fail of GOP and President Trump. They’re against teachers! They’re attacking the poor teacher!” AJC is always spinning and blowing something up to be a real issue when it just truly isn’t. Thus, I commented on their post because I can see through the continued bias left leaning political views & spin. It’s a bunch of hogwash!

Melinda Nguyen
Melinda Nguyen

Angie Baucom Powell Cool and you're completely entitled to your opinion. I think this was a relevant post - considering this entire page is about education in Georgia. Annnddd this tax change effects us teachers. It might mean nothing to you.. but I hope you see the large number of teachers commenting on this who think otherwise. We don't all have PTAs that fund things for us. Many of us have to pay out of pocket. I am an art teacher - the supplies that I have are incredibly important for my art program. When I don't have what I need I feel a personal obligation to my students to fill that need. Is it required of me? No. It's because I'm dedicated to my students and their education - just as you are. I feel like it's a chip away at teachers and the morale in public education. It just feels like they're taking away every last thing from us.. and it doesn't feel like we have anything we can do about it. Slashing our benefits, furloughing us, threatening our pensions, handing down mandates that we know are just extra work with little benefit, the ridiculous amount of testing that controls - well everything, and now this?

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Ashley Langford you may want to be the one who steps up to start a PTO at your school instead of complaining that you don’t have one. But there again— if you can afford to spend 1K-5K a year out of your pocket, you may not feel you need one. PTO’s help fund small purchases as well as large purchases. We have about 7 always dependable parents.... they’re awesome! They handle the planning and the money. But they have full support of all teachers, all school staff and all administration. If they plan a Fall Festival...We all have a booth. If they plan a 5K run, we all work it. If they plan any fundraiser, we are there supporting it. It only takes one person like yourself to dedicate some time and effort to start it. Good luck!!

Luke Donavan
Luke Donavan

Angie Baucom Powell and if parents can’t support a PTO? Even within Title 1 Schools there are differences in wealth and parent education.

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Luke Donavan I guess you’re doomed to keep making excuses and no solutions. Ever heard of getting business sponsors, church sponsors, veterans, civic clubs, etc? Or just do nothing I guess!

Melinda Nguyen
Melinda Nguyen

Angie Baucom Powell Or how about they properly fund our schools so WE don't have to be responsible for a million things that aren't our job?

Luke Donavan
Luke Donavan

Angie Baucom Powell we do have partnerships, but those alone aren’t sufficient. I would also argue that spending our paychecks on students is not doing nothing

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Melinda Nguyen more money more money is always the cry!!! so exactly how much money do you think would be sufficient to do so? How about someone be fiscally more responsible for the millions that are given towards education now. There’s so much waste (not associated with teacher salaries) in education across this nation it’s ridiculous! What about all of the training and retraining? How about all of the working trips retreats for administrations? And so much more but I’m not even going to try to cover.

Melinda Nguyen
Melinda Nguyen

Oh I agree. There is a ton of waste. They could save a lot if they eliminated some of the testing too. Unfortunately teachers don't handle the budget. So until someone fixes that.. teachers continue to foot the bill.

Alicia Ferrell Rosenbaum
Alicia Ferrell Rosenbaum

And because it’s not true for Angie Baucom Powell, then it’s not true for anyone else.

Jackie Theisen
Jackie Theisen

ABP- please,please stay out of our schools. You are a special brand of ignorant and most definitely a low level thinker.

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Jackie Theisen while trolling your Facebook page (so I could see how liberal you are)... I found this quote on your page... “ It requires LESS character to find fault in others, as it does to tolerate them.” So there you have it!! Speaks volumes about you (your character) from you!! As usual, those of your mindset DO what you say you are against. If being conservative and if not caring whether or not I get a tax deduction for the supplies I buy for my classroom is what you consider “low level thinking and ignorant”.... THANK YOU for the compliment!! Anytime I can get such a reaction from a liberal... I know I’m on the right side.

Angie Baucom Powell
Angie Baucom Powell

Exactly what it is... petty! Stirring up something that’s really much to about nothing!

Margaret Master
Margaret Master

I love the article. What I think is PETTY is taking away very small deductions. I agree it doesn't save much for teachers but I don't see why they should take it away, along with all the other adjustments. If this was part of a whole package of simplification across the board I could buy the idea of tidying up and reducing all the various deductions. But this is a PETTY move.

Cherie Elliott
Cherie Elliott

In addition to this at the federal level, at the state level, they are trying to mess with TRS!!!!

Nichelle Young
Nichelle Young

All of y'all that voted for these people shouldn't even be upset!! Haaa

Amber Cronan Wickham
Amber Cronan Wickham

Sure they can still be upset. Putting your trust in a person, and then that person letting you down is a GREAT reason to be upset.

Nichelle Young
Nichelle Young

They shouldn't have been dumb enough to trust them!!! Lol

Astropig
Astropig

This is all background noise.Very faint background noise.This tax bill is not going to pass or fail based on its educational component.


Our tax code is so large,so complicated and so full of perverse incentives that any substantial change will create big winners and big losers.These little pocket -change tweaks to incentivize saving for college or hand out a puppy treat to teachers for supplies won't make or break the public's perception of whether they see themselves as winners or losers when it all settles.If the public gets the idea that they-personally-will have more krinkle in their wallet by passing it,it'll pass.Who doesn't want more money to spend?


That said, I'd love to see the 529 plan expanded to give parents a few more weapons to use to maximize their kids educational opportunities.You can be sure that if there is competition for these funds,the winners will be the families.