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How to Use Work Clothes as a Tax Deduction

Updated for Tax Year 2017


OVERVIEW

If you have to buy a smart new suit for your paralegal job or uniforms for your National Guard duties, it might seem these are obvious work expenses and valid tax deductions. Not necessarily, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Work clothes that can double as street or evening clothes are no more deductible than anything else in your closet. To claim a deduction for buying clothes, the clothes have to be mandatory for your job and unsuitable for everyday wear.


 

If you’re a salaried employee, you may be surprised to learn that your deductions include certain job-related expenses, but only for tax years prior to 2018. For tax year 2018 and on, unreimbursed employee expenses are no longer deductible.

Step 1: Which work clothes are necessary and usable only for work?

Determine which work clothes are necessary for your job but not suitable to wear outside of work. However, just buying clothes specifically for work and never wearing them at any other time isn't good enough. The IRS has accepted deductions for theatrical costumes, hard hats, and other safety gear.

Among the items that do not qualify are overalls, white dress shirts, and bibs even if required on the job site. For example, even though your company requires you to wear a suit each day, you cannot deduct their cost since you can wear the suits to weddings, job interviews, and other occasions that don't relate to work.

Step 2: Document your employer’s policies

Keep a copy of your employer's 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.

Step 3: Save your receipts

If the IRS asks any questions, receipts provide proof that you spent the money on the clothes you are claiming a deduction for. Receipts for the amounts you spend maintaining your work clothes, such as for dry cleaning, shoe-shining and tailoring services are equally important since these costs are deductible too.

Step 4: Claiming the deduction

Include your clothing costs with your other "miscellaneous itemized deductions" on the Schedule A attachment to your tax return. Work clothes are among the miscellaneous deductions that are only deductible to the extent the total exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. Add all the deductions in this category together—other deductions include work-related travel, work tools and professional journals—and subtract two percent of your adjusted gross income. This is the amount you can deduct.

Remember, when you use TurboTax, we’ll help you determine which clothing qualifies for this deduction, and we’ll calculate how much you can deduct.

Tips

  • Most military uniforms can be worn 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.
  • You can find your adjusted gross income on the last line of the first page of your Form 1040.

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