By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter paid Derry a visit Monday to talk about a plan to extend a tax break for teachers who buy classroom supplies out of their own pockets.
She is part of a bipartisan effort to keep the tax credit in place for teachers. The Reimburse Educators Who Pay for Academic Year Supplies Act of 2013, or REPAY Supplies Act, would permanently extend the Classroom Expense Deduction, a $250 tax deduction offered to teachers who pay with their own money to buy supplies to help support their classrooms.
This popular above-the-line deduction is available to all teachers and is set to expire at the end of 2013. Above-the-line deductions are those that cab be subtracted to reduce adjusted gross income, which determines how much tax is owed.
Shea-Porter’s legislation comes after Derry teacher Margaret Morse-Barry sent a letter this summer, urging the congresswoman to look into extending the tax break.
“You never know where a letter is going to take you,” Morse-Barry said during Shea-Porter’s visit. “I’ve purchased tissues, hand sanitizer, pencils, papers and markers,and I’m not alone in that.”
She said many, many teachers reach into their own wallets to support their classrooms when there might not be enough in the budget to pay for extras.
“People spend hundreds to do this,” she said.
Morse-Barry has taken advantage of the $250 tax credit since 2002 and said teachers appreciate the amount they can save.
Derry School Board Chairman Brenda Willis said teachers are always paying for supplies with their own money. Schools and staff also support community efforts to fill backpacks with school supplies every year.
“We also have eight fabulous PTAs that are very supportive of the schools and classes and their needs,” she said.
Shea-Porter said making the tax credit permanent means it would remain in place for educators to use at tax time even if they don’t itemize their deductions.
Her legislation has been endorsed by the National Education Association, New Hampshire chapter; the American Federation of Teachers, New Hampshire chapter, New Hampshire School Administrators Association; and a host of national education organizations.
Shea-Porter said there is a lot of support in Washington.
“I’m optimistic,” she said. “It’s not an enormous amount of money, but it does help. I expect it will pass.”
The congresswoman said extending the tax credit is something that would mean a lot to a lot of teachers.
“Everybody knows someone that’s a teacher,” she said. “You don’t have to make an argument, that’s an easy sell.”