The IRS provided a safe harbor under which "eligible educators" can deduct unreimbursed expenses for COVID-19 protective items as educator expenses under Sec. 62(a)(2)(D) (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 to guide social distancing;
- Physical barriers (e.g., 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.
Sec. 62(a)(2)(D) allows eligible educators an above-the-line deduction of up to $250 of qualifying expenses per year ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but only $250 each). Under Sec. 62(d)(1)(A), an "eligible educator" is 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 these purposes, a school is any school that provides elementary or secondary education under state law (Sec. 62(d)(1)(B)).
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, P.L. 116-260, required the IRS to clarify that unreimbursed expenses paid or incurred after March 12, 2020, by eligible educators for protective items to stop the spread of COVID-19 are expenses described in Sec. 62(a)(2)(D)(ii) that qualify for the educator expense deduction.