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I bought a suit for work, is it tax deductible?

Working wardrobes: is the shirt on your back tax-deductible?

Tax on work clothes

Many times, clients have asked me if the clothes they buy for work can be listed in their accounts and claimed for tax relief. It’s a reasonable question – clothes, after all, are an integral part of our lives and jobs, and laying out for a good suit or pair of shoes can be a considerable expense.

While it makes sense to ask, the answer is somewhat more complex. Generally speaking, clothing is NOT claimable if it can be said to be part of an ‘everyday wardrobe’. This includes suits, ties, dresses, shoes, dress shirts, stockings and other standard articles of ‘office dress’. While work wear does seem to many to be  a kind of uniform, in fact the choices made in these items of attire are largely personal, can reflect the wearer’s style and be worn outside of work as part of everyday living; what’s more, suits and dresses can range from reasonably priced to extremely expensive.

Allowable circumstances

There are, however, plenty of clearly delineated cases in which clothing is so integral to the job as to be claimable. These include uniforms. If you have to buy a uniformwhich is standardized in style and price and mandatory to do your job, it’s probably tax-deductible. Examples include uniforms for nurses and health-care workers, lab coats, or an apron for a chef, that wouldn’t be part of everyday wear.

Other items that are claimable include most kinds of protective gear. Steel-toed boots, reflective outerwear, safety goggles and hard hats are all deductible. Accessories like toolbelts may be, as well, but check with your accountant as these items may be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of professional entertainers, costumes may be claimed – for example, a clown costume for a children’s party host – but you must be able to show that the items claimed are really necessary to the act and not something you can wear as part of your non-business life.

As might be expected, there are some grey areas where items may seem to fall into one or the other category. Workman’s overalls, for example, would seem to fall in the grey area between strict work wear and possible everyday item. The same article of clothing may be deductible as work wear for one claimant, and not for another – for example, black-tie attire may be considered a uniform for a special events waiter, but an item of personal wear for a businessman attending a black-tie event. In case of uncertainty, check with your accountant, who should be able to advise on your specific situation.

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