Are Work Clothes Tax Deductible for Self Employed?

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When I first started working, I didn’t have what I’d call “work clothes”. Fortunately, I was working in a corporate office environment that only expected business casual. I could even wear jeans! I stopped by a local store to pick up a half dozen cheap polo shirts, a pair of brown shoes and a pair of black shoes. I was all set.

Was my purchase tax deductible? Did it count as business-related clothing for tax purposes? The answer, in my case, was no. However, your situation may be different – here’s how to know if your business clothes are tax deductible and how to claim them.

Is it Necessary and Usable Only for Work?

That’s the key question: your clothing must be required for your work and usable only for your particular work, like a uniform. This means that typical office attire doesn’t count, because you can wear your button-down shirts outside of the office. My polo shirts and shoes did not count.

If work in construction and are required to purchase your own hard hat: that is tax deductible. If you work in a hospital environment and must buy your own scrubs, those are deductible as well. If you’re a performer and buy your own costumes, they count, too. This also applies to accessories. If you need to purchase work boots,  tool belts, or any other equipment because of your work, they may be deducted.

There are a few boundary cases where the deductions aren’t permitted. One example is a pair of overalls. They may be required for work, and even though you wouldn’t typically wear them outside of work, you reasonably could. The IRS will not allow it. (I hear they are coming back into style!)

How to Claim the Deduction

If you have an employer, this deduction falls under “miscellaneous itemized deductions” – your itemized deductions need to exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income for you to deduct it. It falls into the same category as unreimbursed employee expenses, like work-related travel and work tools that have not been reimbursed by your employer.

On the other hand, if you are a sole proprietor or work as a contractor, you can claim these expenses as a business expense rather than an unreimbursed employee expense. So you don’t have to itemize your tax deductions and are not subject to the 2% requirement.

Finally, like all tax deductible expenses, you need to save your receipts to prove you spent the money on what you’re claiming. This applies to the purchase of the clothing as well as any ongoing maintenance costs of clothing or uniforms that can’t be worn outside of work, like dry cleaning, repairs, and tailoring, which can also be tax deductible.

Don’t worry about knowing these tax laws. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and your business and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for.

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