Now that you’re a small business owner, it’s time to step up your game when choosing clothing. After all, you can’t meet potential clients for coffee wearing break-away sweat pants. So you head out to the mall to pick up an Armani suit or two. Since you’re doing this for your business, it’s tax deductible. Right? Sadly, the IRS small business deduction for clothing doesn’t work like that.
Can I deduct Clothes as a Business Expense?
It's true that you can deduct the amount you spent on the purchase and upkeep of work clothes, but your clothing must meet two requirements before you can claim the costs as an “other expense” on the Schedule C tax form where you report self-employment income and expenses:
• You must wear them as a condition of your employment.
• The clothes cannot be suitable for everyday wear.
Taking a look at these conditions, it looks like you won’t be able to write off those designer suits, since they wouldn’t be distinctive enough to meet these requirements. So no, you can’t write them off. Are your clothes a requirement for your job? But wait, there’s more. Just because some clothing might be distinctive, that is not enough for the write-off. Your employer must specifically require you to wear it as part of your job.
Additionally, you cannot make the claim that since you do not wear the clothing away from work, you should be able to deduct its costs. Part of the distinctiveness test is that the clothing must not be suitable for taking the place of your regular clothing. Say, for instance, that you are a real estate agent. You probably dress up a bit to show properties to your clients and to attend open houses. If you were walking down the street wearing the Armani suit you wore to a showing earlier in the day, would someone be able to tell you’re a real estate agent for a particular agency? Probably not -- so the clothing would not be deductible. But let's say you’re in the medical profession and wear scrubs. You probably wouldn’t wear your scrubs (given a choice) out to dinner or to the movies. And other people would likely identify you as a member of the healthcare field because of your clothing. So, read on… Yes, this is clothing you can deduct.
Final Thoughts on Claiming Clothes as a Business Expense
The cost of some types of protective clothing worn on the job -- like safety shoes or boots, safety glasses, hard hats, and work gloves -- can be deducted on your return. You would have to list your profession on your return as the type of work that requires this kind of clothing, such as if you were a carpenter, electrician, steamfitter, someone who works with chemicals, or a fishing boat crew member. The rules on when you can deduct the cost of work clothing can be confusing. If you do run across something that you don’t understand, check with a good accountant who can advise you. It is better to understand all your options rather than making a rash decision about a potential tax deduction.