If you bought personal protective equipment (PPE) — such as masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes — for the purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in 2021, you may be eligible for a tax break.
PPE expenses for the purpose of preventing the spread of coronavirus are deductible medical expenses, according to the IRS. Amounts paid for PPE (for you, your spouse or any dependents) are treated the same as amounts paid for medical care under Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code.
There is one major caveat: you can only deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. For example, if your adjusted gross income for 2021 was $50,000, then you could deduct the amount of your qualifying medical expenses that are above $3,750.
Amounts paid for PPE are also eligible to be paid or reimbursed under health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (Archer MSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs). Keep in mind that if PPE expenses are paid or reimbursed under any health plan, said expenses are not deductible because you’ve already received a tax break on them. The same applies if you incur medical costs that your insurance covers in full.
Additionally, to claim the medical expense deduction, you must itemize your deductions. To lower your tax liability, your itemized deductions must be higher than the standard deduction. If the standard deduction is higher than your itemized deductions, then it won’t increase your refund or reduce your taxes.
Eligible educators may also deduct unreimbursed classroom expenses for purchases of COVID-19 protective items made after March 12, 2020. Known as the Educator Expense Deduction, eligible educators can deduct up to $250 of qualifying expenses per year ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each). Educators don’t have to itemize to get this deduction.
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