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Oklahoma teachers may lose much-needed tax break

Lawton_April 15 is one of the most dreaded days of the year for some - and it's just three months away.  That's when the IRS says all our tax forms are due to be filed.  But, there are some changes in the way some will file this time, and it will affect our educators.    

For Oklahoma teachers, it might be the last time they'll get a good tax break.  In 2005, Congress created a deduction that gives teachers up to $250 for extra classroom expenses, but soon they won't even get that small amount deducted. 

It might not seem like much, but to teachers in Oklahoma it can mean the difference in a child's education. 

First grade teacher Sarah Bruehl says she loves her job so much she'll do anything to make sure her kids learn.  "I average probably about $40 per month out of my pocket expenses," she says.  She spends her money on reading books, clocks, and anything else that will help her students excel.  "We use a lot of edible material," she says.  "A lot of elementary teachers have books that go along with candy, you know, we teach measurement with candy.  So those are things that add up."

That's why Congress set up the expense deduction for educators.  It's for teachers and aides teaching kids in kindergarten through grade 12.  But, this is the last year for the deduction, which is why Oklahoma legislators are trying to get their own classroom deduction.  A proposal by Representative John Trebilcock could give them twice the money. 

"We need something to back us up," says Bruehl.  "I think it's a wonderful idea.  We're used to having a $250 deduction, and that was nice, but since we're getting rid of that, $500 would be much better." 

In 2006, the National Education Association reported Oklahoma as 47th in the nation in average teachers pay, so the tax break is much needed and with the deadline just three months away, taxes are on everyone's minds.  Rush Springs Representative Joe Dorman is supporting the new legislation and says we really need to push it through to keep teachers in Oklahoma.

Here are some tips to get a head start on your taxes before the April deadline:

  • Gather your records in advance - Make sure you have copies of all your records, and make copies for yourself.
  • Get the correct forms - Visit www.irs.gov to find out which ones you need.
  • Double check your math - Take time to make sure all your numbers are correct - including social security numbers.
  • E file - Electronic filing catches math errors and gives you a confirmation.
  • Don't panic - If you run into a problem, the IRS is there to help.  Visit their website or give them a call.
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