How much can you claim for work clothes

Clothing is one of the more contested tax deductions, and it tends to get rejected a lot. But this doesnt mean you should avoid deducting work-related clothing expenses on your tax

How much can you claim for work clothes

Clothing is one of the more contested tax deductions, and it tends to get rejected a lot. But this doesnt mean you should avoid deducting work-related clothing expenses on your tax return altogether.

Heres an overview of the clothing purchases that can and cant be deducted as a business expense.

Deducting work clothing: the rules

For an item of clothing to qualify as a business expense, it needs to meet certain IRS criteria. Like all deductible expenses, the item needs to be ordinary and necessary for your business operations. The attire should be in line with industry standards (ordinary) and it should be essential in order to run the business (necessary). Clothing expenses that meet these rules can be claimed as miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040).

If you require employees to purchase certain items of clothing for work, then the same rule applies; if they are going to expense the cost on their own personal tax return, the item needs to be required attire by you, their employer, and it must be ordinary and necessary to complete their job.

Here are some examples of work attire that can be deducted:

Protective clothing

If you are running a business that requires protective clothing, you can deduct the cost of these items. For example, if you own a construction company, you can deduct the cost of purchases such as hard hats and safety boots.

Uniforms and work clothes

While protective clothing is distinctive as work attire, many types of uniforms and other work clothes arent as obvious. In order to deduct the cost of uniforms or work clothes, the item needs to be distinctive and not appropriate for everyday wear. For instance, a polo branded with your company logo would be deductible, while khaki pants wouldnt be (even if they are a part of the company uniform) since they can easily be worn outside of the business.

Costumes

Musicians and entertainers can deduct the cost of theatrical clothing and accessories as long as theyre not suitable for everyday wear. This seems simple enough, but deciding what is suitable for everyday can be challenging. Entrepreneur.com pointed out a Las Vegas showgirl who was audited after claiming the cost of her costumes. She was told her costumes werent tax deductible as she could wear the outfits outside of performances. To prove them wrong, she came to the audit dressed in one of the costumes in question, was unable to sit down due to the outfits shape, and won. If youre going to deduct the cost of a costume, be sure that it isnt clothing that could be reasonably worn outside of performances.

Professional attire

This is the category that people find most confusing. It may seem like you should be able to deduct the cost of a suit you bought for a conference, but unfortunately suits arent at all deductible. Professional clothes such as suits or work dresses can be worn to events outside of the business, therefore you cant deduct the cost. Its not important whether you would wear the item outside of work, it just matters that its not distinctive enough to not wear it when youre not on the job.

Promotional attire for your employees

Clothing that promotes your business is deductible as a promotional expense. This includes the cost of the clothing itself, and the cost of adding your business logo to the item. You can claim this promotional cost as a miscellaneous deduction on your tax return.

How Bench can help

Surprised at the kinds of expenses that are tax-deductible? Personal appearance expenses are just one of many unexpected deductible costs that can reduce your tax bill. But with messy or incomplete financials, you can miss these tax saving expenses and end up with a bigger bill than necessary.

Enter Bench, Americas largest bookkeeping service. With a Bench subscription, your team of bookkeepers imports every transaction from your bank, credit cards, and merchant processors, accurately categorizing each and reviewing for hidden tax deductions. We provide you with complete and up-to-date bookkeeping, guaranteeing that you wont miss a single opportunity to save.

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So, can you deduct your clothing expenses?

The basics of this deduction are fairly straightforward. If the uniform or clothing could be worn outside of work, you shouldnt claim it as a tax deduction.

However, the line between what clothes can and cant be deducted can get a little blurry, so lets look at a few examples.

The general contractor

If youre running a business that includes on-site visits in a field such as construction, youll need to invest in both protective clothing and business attire. If you purchase hard hats, boots, or gloves for yourself or your employees, you can deduct the costs. However, professional clothes or more general pieces purchased for client meetings arent going to be deductible, because you could wear them outside of work.

The online personality

If you produce video content online (tutorial videos, an online news broadcast, reviews), you likely invest in clothes to wear in front of the camera. Unfortunately, this type of clothing expense cant be claimed; your outfits are suitable for wearing off camera as well. There was a similar case with a TV news anchor where she tried to deduct clothing costs, because the clothes she purchased followed guidelines set by her employer, the news channel. However, because the clothes were suitable for general wear, they were disqualified from being tax deductible. The lesson: even if you have a specific on-set wardrobe, its not a good idea to turn it into a tax break.

The trade show attendee

Attending a trade show is one way to get exposure for your business and to find new customers. If youre taking your team to a trade show or conference and you decide to create t-shirts emblazoned with your logo for everyone to wear, youll be able to deduct the cost of producing these t-shirts as a promotional expense. However, requiring everyone to wear a certain pair of shoes (and purchasing them for the team) wont make for a deductible expense.

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