Is the Cost of your Work Clothing Tax Deductible?

To know whether the cost of your work clothing is tax deductible or not, you need to determine if it is ordinary or specialist clothing.  As a general rule, ordinary clothing is not deductible.  Specialist clothing, on the other hand, may be deductible, depending on certain requirements.

The general rules on Tax Rebate should first be quickly recalled to properly appreciate the rules on clothing and uniforms

General rule: “wholly and exclusively”

In the words of case law, the cost of clothing must be “wholly and exclusively” for the performance of one’s work.  There must be no other purpose.

For example, John is a computer engineer who wears his suit and tie at work at the behest of his manager. The cost of his clothing does not meet the criterion and is, therefore, not deductible.  This is because he wears his clothes for another purpose – that is, to keep himself warm and looking decent.

There is no way that the cost of his suit can be apportioned to determine how much is dedicated for business, and how much for personal purposes.  If it can be reasonably said that 90% of the cost is for work and 10% is for personal purposes, then the 10% should be applied for a Tax Rebate.  Unfortunately, this cannot be actually, logically and practicably done.

That John’s manager required him to wear the suit does not make its cost deductible either.  It does not change the fact that he derives another purpose for it, and it is not wholly and exclusively for the performance of his work.  Assuming John only uses the suit for work, the treatment remains the same.  There is no prohibition against his wearing the suit for purposes other than business.  Again, the requirement is that the article of clothing must be wholly and exclusively for the performance of his work.

Exceptions to the general rule

There are several exceptions to the general rule, among which is the fact that the personal benefits derived from the use of the clothing is merely incidental, and not the primary purpose for acquiring the clothing.  In John’s example, it cannot be said that the personal benefit he gets from his suit and tie are merely incidental.  Because of the nature of clothing items – that they have to be worn physically – the business and personal aspects of the clothing are interwoven seamlessly (pun intended).  Once he wears his suit, he meets both business and personal requirements.

Applying the rule

Applying these rules on clothing, it can be said that ordinary clothing does not entitle the employee to a Tax Rebate because of failing to meet the criterion.  Specialist clothing, on the other hand, may satisfactorily meet it, subject to another criterion (to be discussed below).

Ordinary clothing, not deductible

The cost of ordinary clothing worn for work is not deductible for tax purposes because of its personal nature.  Ordinary clothing refers to those articles of clothing worn by employees for reasons other than their work.  They can be any kind of article: black slacks, leather shoes, white T-shirts, socks, blouses, etc.

They will never be wholly and exclusively for the performance of one’s work.  Unless certain modifications are made, say, company logos are sewn in jackets, caps or shirts to effectively change their status from being “ordinary” to “specialist”, they will remain non-deductible.

Specialist clothing: protective clothing

The treatment is different for specialist clothing such as protective work clothing and uniforms.  If your clothing falls into either of these, you must have borne the cost of acquiring them to avail of the Tax Rebate.  Otherwise, if the protective clothing or uniform was furnished by the company, they can essentially be considered as gifts, and their costs may be taxable against you.

Protective clothing are those articles of clothing worn to protect the employee from reasonable and expected hazards of his or her job.  Examples of these are safety boots, overalls, safety glasses, etc.  Although they also serve to satisfy the employee’s need for warmth and decency (as does ordinary clothing), the satisfaction of these needs are, in the case of protective clothing, considered as business-ended, and not merely for personal reasons.   Safety, in their case, is a primary concern.  From a logical standpoint, the rationale is this: the employee’s safety benefits the business.

Specialist clothing: Uniforms

Uniforms, on the other hand, are worn primarily to associate the employee with his or her employer-company.  The easiest examples are the uniforms of policemen, firemen, and nurses, to cite a few.

A little more complicated are the uniforms of cabin crew, hotel staff, restaurant servers, and those employees with certain items considered as uniform and those which are not.  For example, Jane is the front desk receptionist in a premiere hotel.  In her work, she is required to wear a brown and gold blazer, skirt, scarf and cap.  All of these items bore the hotel’s logo and name.  She is also required to wear a white blouse, skin-tone stockings and peach heels.  Her blazer, skirt, scarf and cap are considered uniform and are deductible.  The other items are ordinary clothing and non-deductible.

Is the cost of your work clothing tax deductible?

Finally, to answer the question: the cost of your work clothing is tax deductible if it is either a protective clothing or uniform – as defined above, if it is required for your work and if you personally bore its cost.  The rebate amount depends on the industry where you belong, but the baseline is 60 GBP.  However, to get the right amount, it is best to ask help from your accountant.