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Tax Deduction for Business Clothes

Published on 3/14/2016
Writtin by: Paul Bogdanoff, CPA, Stacia Getz

Most company employee manuals set the standards for the employees’ attire in the work place. So the question becomes are the clothes that one buys to wear to work an itemized deduction?

The Internal Revenue Service’s instruction for Miscellaneous Expenses states that to be deductible the clothes must meet these standards:

To be deductible, the cost and upkeep of uniforms and special clothing must:

  1. Be required as a condition of employment, and
  2. Not be adaptable to everyday wear.

Example of deductible clothing; special shoes, shirts, ties, hats with a company logo or other clothing designed strictly for the workplace, uniforms of professional athletes, firefighter, postal worker or police uniforms, health care worker scrubs or lab coats, delivery workers’ uniforms and airline, rail and bus uniforms, safety clothes, shoes and other protective items are deductible. 

Your employer must require that you wear the clothes and the clothes are not appropriate for taking the place of your daily clothes.

Military uniforms that are worn by active full time service men and women may not deduct the cost of their uniforms. Reservists may deduct the cost of their uniforms if the reservist is not allowed to wear their uniform when they are off duty. For more click here and review publication 3.

All white, shorts, pants and caps that are required to be worn by painters in a union were not found to be deductible. There are numerous court cases that illustrate non- deductible clothes that were worn by on air television personalities, all black uniforms for restaurant employees and fitness instructors’ workout clothes.

The most well know case is Hamper v. Commissioner. The anchor claimed approximately $20,000 a year in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.  Her argument was that as a TV anchor she was required to maintain a specified appearance described in the Women’s Wardrobe Guidelines.  These guidelines say the “ideal in selecting an outfit for on-air use should be the selection of ‘standard business wear’, typical of that which one might wear on any business day in a normal office setting anywhere in the USA.” The IRS not only said no, but they added penalties.

The tax team and Bogdanoff Dages and Co., P. C. is available to discuss your questions regarding the deductibility of work clothes or any other tax concern and situation.