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Online education and business concept.There are many things that go on the calendar for teachers: the first day of school, the last day of school, days off, and days in between. But one day that teachers – and Americans as a whole – seem to loathe is Tax Day. April 15th seems to creep up on us much more quickly than we’d like to admit. And, yet, lo and behold, it’s right on our doorstep again. Here are some tips for you as we approach the 1/2 month until our taxes are due.

File yourself, if you can – having someone complete your taxes for you is an increasingly expensive endeavor. Sure, it’s nice to relieve yourself of the duty, but most accountants spend 15-20 minutes on the average teacher’s tax return. In that time frame, you could easily spend $100 or more on their services. With the ability to complete your own return online, stick that $100 in your savings account.

See if you can get help from some parents – you’d be surprised to know how grateful parents are for the work you do for their children. Though there’s no appropriate, direct way to ask, you may find yourself in a situation whereby you’re presented with an opportunity. Take it if you feel it’s right.

If not, purchase a computer program to help you – TurboTax and H&R Block both have quite user-friendly software. Many of these programs will also identify your profession and help you itemize certain deductions for our profession.

Make best use of your deductions – federally, all employees are permitted to deduct $250 from their professional-related expenses. You’re also permitted to deduct your union dues, if you’re a member of NEA and your state affiliate.

Itemize other deductionsTurboTax highlights as the #1 most often forgotten tax deduction is disregarding your contributions and driving mileage for charitable organizations. Most teachers are very involved in their community, so if you’re going somewhere and not getting paid for it, at least keep a receipt so that you can itemize your goodly work.

Always keep your receipts – anything that you can possibly itemize for this profession or for your children, keep it all in a shoebox until it’s time for tax season. You’ll be glad you did.

Talk to a veteran teacher about what they deduct – I can’t believe it took me 6 years of teaching until I sat down with a teacher who I wanted to be. At first it was just that I wanted to be him as a curriculum and classroom master, but then I realized that the greatest education I gained from him was financial.

Maximize your retirement – retirements vary by state, but I recommend visualizing what it’d take to retire and then double it. Do what you can to get there, which includes your money and your pension’s. I’d recommend talking to someone about a 403(b) plan.

Look for more ideas – in just a simple Google search, I found some suggestions from NEA’s Member Benefits, among a few others. I’m sure there are more if you’re curious or specific enough. In addition, you’ll be able to find new types of deductions dependent upon the ever-changing tax code.

Plan for the next year’s deductions – have a discussion with your family or financial adviser so that you’re in a better position for next year. That could involve many different things, such as whether you’ll add one to the family, move them to a new house, or continue in your education. Likewise, you can also seek to increase your return by paying more in, or, if you’re a bastion of budgeting like my wife and I, we seek to limit our deduction so that money stays in our pockets more than it does Uncle Sam’s.

So, as you start to peel the calendar from March to April, don’t disregard Tax Day. Come Memorial Day, you’ll be glad you did. And, when you end the calendar and begin a new one, search for this article once again.


Mr. Jake Miller is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, a 2017 NEA Global...

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