WASHINGTON—U.S. Congresswomen Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., both Members of the Ways and Means Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that K-12 teachers can claim a federal tax deduction if they purchase air purifiers, cleaning supplies, and personal protective equipment like masks for their classrooms in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The bill, the Supporting Educators During COVID-19 Act, is a response to concerns expressed by Central Florida educators during a recent listening session that Murphy held. A number of teachers and school administrators told Murphy they were buying these products with their own money and not being reimbursed for the cost.
“No teacher in America should feel compelled to purchase air purifiers, cleaning products, and masks for their classrooms with their hard-earned money in order to keep their students and themselves safe. School districts should cover the cost of those purchases with help from the federal government,” said Murphy. “As congressional gridlock continues to prevent us from sending additional resources to our K-12 schools, this bipartisan bill will ensure that, at the very least, educators who buy these products will be able to claim a tax deduction for those purchases. I’ll keep urging congressional leaders to enact another COVID relief bill that supports students, teachers, and schools.”
“Safely reopening our schools is not only critical to rebuilding our economy, it’s essential to the wellbeing and long-term success of America’s families,” Walorski said. “Keeping students and teachers safe in the classroom requires investments in PPE, cleaning supplies, and other items to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our nation’s educators shouldn’t be stuck with the bill, which is why I’m working across the aisle to provide tax relief to teachers who spend their own money to provide a healthy learning environment for our children. I’m grateful the State of Indiana has delivered supplies like masks and hand sanitizer to K-12 schools, and I hope this bipartisan bill provides additional support to keep Hoosier teachers, students, and families safe.”
“Every week, I hear from teachers who are short of PPE and are spending their own money to buy items to protect the students and themselves. The union has received some donations but cannot keep up with the demand. Many teachers have invested in air purifiers for their classrooms because many have poor ventilation and no windows. I am grateful that Congresswoman Murphy listened to us and will be introducing this timely bill to support teachers who are spending their own money to ensure student health and safety,” said Wendy L. Doromal, President of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association.
“The Florida DOE has a program—Teacher Supply Card (FL 1012.71)—which provides approximately $300 to assist teachers to purchase items for their classroom—but there are many restrictions. Among these restrictions, PPE, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes and cleaners, and many items that prevent the spread of COVID are not allowed to be purchased with the TSC—so our teachers have been purchasing these items out of their own pocket. Seminole’s teachers will be grateful that Representative Murphy is standing up for them,” said Dan Smith, President of the Seminole Education Association.
Under the federal tax code, there is a provision known as the “educator expense tax deduction.” It allows an elementary or secondary school teacher to deduct up to $250 per tax year for the unreimbursed purchase of certain supplies and equipment. This deduction can be claimed by teachers regardless of whether they take the standard tax deduction or itemize their deductions.
In July, Murphy wrote a letter to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, asking whether purchases of air purifiers, cleaning supplies, and personal protective equipment qualified for the deduction. Last month, the IRS responded that such purchases did not qualify for the deduction, based on the IRS’s reading of the federal tax code. The Murphy-Walorski bill would require the IRS to issue regulations “to clarify that the educator expense tax deduction includes expenses for personal protective equipment and other supplies related to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.”