2016 Deductions: Work Clothing

As 2016 comes to an end, we hope you’ve been following our advice about getting started on your taxes early. It’s a good idea to locate those receipts and business expenses and figure out what you can and cannot deduct. One of the most common questions we receive during this tax planning time of  the year involves deducting clothing.

Many people feel that they allowed a deduction for the clothes they buy for work, especially if their company has a strict dress code. Regardless of company policy regarding dress, or whether the employee simply wants to dress well in order to impress their own clients and co-workers, clothing deductions are usually not allowed. In fact, any clothing that is able to be worn in the general public is not deductible as a work or business expense.

However, you may be able to write off some clothing items. There are specific circumstances where clothing can be deducted. First, the clothing must be required as a condition of employment; hard hats, theatrical clothing and other safety gear can be written off. Overalls, dress shirts and bibs unfortunately cannot.

Second, the clothing cannot be suited for everyday use;  professional sports uniforms, firefighting equipment, Police holsters or gear. You would not go shopping in the mall in your firefighting equipment. Military uniforms, however, can be used off duty, so are not a guaranteed deduction unless the rules prevent you from wearing them outside of work. If you receive a clothing allowance or other type of reimbursement, then you must reduce your deductible expense by the amount of allowance you receive.

Lastly, keep a copy of your employer’s clothing policy. For example, a pilot was able to present written proof that his employer required him to wear shoes not suitable for everyday use and to incur costs of having them polished regularly when the IRS questioned his deduction. The pilot was ultimately able to deduct the cost of the shoes as well as the expense of keeping them polished because the employer’s policy indicated as such.

If you have additional questions about what you can and cannot deduct on your 2016 tax returns, give us a call. A D. Mathew Blackburn, we do attorney things, but we specialize in tax law. Let us know how we can help.