In just a few months, the federal tax collector will once again be knocking on our doors, spurring many of us to start combing through our purses, wallets and shoeboxes filled with crumpled receipts and invoices, desperately trying to claw back a bit of what the government has taken over the past year. Good news, though! Teachers can claim some of the job-related purchases they made over the past year.
Although the Alberta Teachers’ Association has a policy stating that teachers should not purchase classroom material, many teachers do buy supplies and educational enhancements for their classrooms on their own dime. Over time, that can add up. Fortunately, a little relief is available.
In 2016, the federal government introduced the Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Credit, which allows eligible teachers to claim up to $1,000 worth of qualifying out-of-pocket purchases. The key word, though, is “qualifying.”
For the most part, the supplies have to be considered “consumable” goods, meaning they are used up by the students. These are things like construction paper, paint, flashcards and science experiment items. A few “durable” goods that can be claimed, like games, puzzles, containers and books, have a reusable quality but a relatively short lifespan. Unfortunately, you are not able to claim more durable items such as rugs, computers or tablets, because they can be used for much longer periods of time.
Teachers might even be allowed to claim classroom pet expenses, provided the animal was used in teaching part of the prescribed curriculum or served to teach or facilitate the students in learning. All eligible items must be claimed for the same tax year in which they were purchased — you can’t claim that great deal you got on a case of peacock glitter in 2002, even though you’re still using it today!
You will also need a letter or certification from your employer (or their official delegate, usually the principal) confirming that your purchases were used in the performance of your educational duties. The letter should also state that you were not reimbursed for the supplies, nor allowed to claim them as a deduction from your regular salary. That would be double-dipping.
To make your claim, just total up your receipts for the previous tax year (not the school year!) and enter it on line 468 of your return. You’ll receive a tax credit of 15 per cent on your total purchases (a maximum of $1,000 can be claimed for a credit of $150). You don’t have to provide any receipts with your tax return, but make sure you keep them in your files along with the certification letter from your principal.
Expenses related to attending teachers’ convention are also deductible. Since 1998, teachers have been allowed to claim travel, meals and accommodation for attending convention — again, provided those expenses have not been reimbursed or used to reduce the teacher’s taxable salary. You will need to complete and include a T777 form along with an itemised account of your expenses. You will also need a T2200 filled out by your employer. It states you were performing duties that are a condition of employment. You won’t have to file this form with your return, but you must have it on hand in case the CRA asks for it later.
And now we get to the “I do a lot of work from home! I should deduct that!” claim. Unfortunately, in order to qualify for those expenses, you must meet at least one of the following two requirements:
a) You perform 50 per cent or more of your work at home.
b) The space is used exclusively for work, and you regularly and continuously meet customers or other persons there to conduct business.
Clothing and expenses related to traveling to and from work are also exempt — they’re considered normal and expected expenditures of your employment.
Tax time is always a confusing and complicated period, and we always wonder if we’ve squeezed out every last possible deduction droplet. To lay people the answer is never truly clear, so if your return is the least bit out of the ordinary, it’s never a bad thing to have an expert look it over. ❚
Information in this article was gathered from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website and an interview with CRA spokesperson Cheryl Cheung. For advice specific to your situation, please consult the CRA or a qualified income tax expert.
School Supply Tax Credit
Am I eligible for the School Supply Tax Credit?
The CRA defines an eligible teacher as
“Someone employed at an elementary or secondary school who holds a teacher’s certificate that is valid in the province or territory in which they are employed”
|What are eligible “consumable goods”?
- Construction paper
- Flashcards for activity centres
- Science experiment items: seeds, potting soil, vinegar, baking soda, stir sticks
- Art supplies: paint, glue, paper
- Stationary supplies: pens, pencils, posters, charts
What are eligible “durable goods”?
- Games and puzzles
- Books for the classroom
- Containers such as totes, plastic boxes, banker boxes
- Educational support software
What are non-eligible “durable goods”?
- Rugs, computers and tablets
Canada Revenue Agency