From the Waterbury Republican-American:
Since 2002, teachers such as [kindergarten teacher Carol] Fitzgerald have gotten a bit of relief on their taxes for purchasing classroom supplies out of their own pockets. But the code that allowed educators to take up to a $250 deduction on their income taxes is set to expire at the end of this year.
"That $250 is a drop in the bucket. You can see just looking around how much money we're spending on supplies," Fitzgerald said. "But at least they're recognizing the fact that we're spending money on our own."
The National Education Association is working with Congress to get a two-year extension on the tax deduction, said Al Campos, a lobbyist for the organization.
The number of teachers using the deduction has grown since 2002, according to Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman Dianne Besunder. In 2002, 2.9 million teachers claimed some or all of the deduction, increasing to 3.2 million in 2003 and 3.4 million in 2004. Numbers for 2005 are not yet available.
Those 3.4 million teachers each taking their $250 deduction represents a total of $850 million in tax deductions - 0.039% of the 2004 federal budget of $2.2 trillion.
That $850 million, as the article notes, also only represents a fraction of what teachers actually spend out of their own pockets on school supplies:
In this veteran teacher's classroom, she has purchased most everything out of her own pocket: the sand in the sand table, books on her overstuffed shelves, colorful posters, arts and crafts supplies, supplementary workbooks and more.
Patrick Ospalek, president of the Waterbury Teachers Association and an English teacher at Waterbury Arts Magnet School, said the tax deduction has been popular among teachers despite many spending more than $250 on supplies each year.
"From personal experience, the $250 deduction is welcome, but I know that I spent probably four times that on supplies over the course of last year," Ospalek said. "It can't be seen as representative of what's actually" spent.
"At the elementary level, the enrichment stuff that the teachers find so useful is the stuff that the district isn't buying," he said. "The district is buying the necessities. Some might say the bare necessities."
Click on the link and read the whole article. This tax deduction has been scheduled to end before and survived; hopefully, it will survive again.
Update: Anon, in the comments, has alerted us to Susan Collins' announcement, dated 12/11/06, that an extension of the tax deduction has passed the Senate. For some reason, neither Thomas nor GovTrack has updated the status of either the House or the Senate version of the bill. It is unclear whether the extension has passed the House. Senator Collins' website alludes to a bill that extends the existing deduction and makes no mention of how long the extension is for - her bill as originally introduced (and its House companion) increased the deduction to $400 and made it permanent. I will try to figure out what has happened with this bill as information becomes available.
Megan Broderick, Teachers who buy own supplies hope IRS extends tax deduction, Waterbury Republican-American, December 12, 2006.
Fiscal Year 2004 Budget, Summary Tables, Government Printing Office.