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IRS Provides Safe Harbor for Eligible Educators to Deduct Unreimbursed PPE Expenses

(Parker Tax Publishing February 2021)

The IRS issued a procedure providing a safe harbor for eligible educators to treat unreimbursed expenses paid or incurred after March 12, 2020, for personal protective equipment, disinfectant, and other supplies used for the prevention of the spread of COVID - 19 in the classroom, as expenses that are deductible under Code Sec. 62(a)(2)(D). The safe harbor procedure is provided pursuant to Section 275 of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Pub. L. 116-260). Rev. Proc. 2021-15.

Code Sec. 62 lists expenses that an individual may deduct from gross income in arriving at adjusted gross income. Code Sec. 62(a)(2)(D) provides, in part, that eligible educators can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators) of unreimbursed expenses paid or incurred in connection with books, certain supplies, computer equipment, other equipment, and supplementary materials used by the eligible educator in the classroom. Under Code Sec. 62(d)(1)(A), the term "eligible educator" means any individual who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year. For an unreimbursed expense to be deductible, the expense must be allowed as a deduction under Code Sec. 162(a) as an ordinary and necessary expense paid or incurred during the tax year in carrying on the eligible educator's trade or business of performing services as an employee.

Section 275 of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 (COVID Tax Relief Act), enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Pub. L. 116-260), requires the IRS to clarify that COVID-19 protective items used for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 are treated as items described in Code Sec. 62(a)(2)(D)(ii) if paid or incurred by an eligible educator after March 12, 2020.

In Rev. Proc. 2021-15, the IRS provided a safe harbor procedure under which, in accordance with Section 275 of the COVID Tax Relief Act, an eligible educator may treat unreimbursed expenses paid or incurred after March 12, 2020, for COVID-19 protective items that are, or will be, used by that eligible educator for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom, as deductible expenses under Code Sec. 62(a)(2)(D), subject to the applicable aggregate dollar limitation. For purposes of Rev. Proc. 2021-15, COVID-19 protective items include, but are not limited to: face masks; disinfectant for use against COVID-19; hand soap; hand sanitizer; disposable gloves; tape, paint or chalk used to guide social distancing; physical barriers (for example, clear plexiglass); air purifiers; and other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be used for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

For a discussion of the deduction for eligible educator expenses, see Parker Tax ¶80,135.

Disclaimer: This publication does not, and is not intended to, provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and readers should consult their tax advisors concerning the application of tax laws to their particular situations. This analysis is not tax advice and is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer. The information contained herein is general in nature and based on authorities that are subject to change. Parker Tax Publishing guarantees neither the accuracy nor completeness of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for results obtained by others as a result of reliance upon such information. Parker Tax Publishing assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in tax laws or other factors that could affect information contained herein.

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