Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Central Florida educators informed Murphy during a telelistening session that they were making these purchases with their own money and not being reimbursed for the cost

From the Office of U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, D-FL

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. “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.”

“The Florida Department of Education 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,” said Dan Smith, President of the Seminole Education Association. “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.”

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.”

U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy represents Florida’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. The district includes all of Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, including downtown Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, and the University of Central Florida. Previously, Murphy was a businesswoman and college instructor who also served as a national security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where she received numerous awards, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Murphy lives in Winter Park with her husband and two children.

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