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Can you write off clothes for work? Tax lessons 101

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Updated on:
December 11, 2022
December 11, 2022
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Do you have an independent contractor job that requires you to wear special clothing? Depending on the case, you may not even bother to deduct the cost. However, in some situations, those work clothes can actually be quite expensive.

We know that certain expenses are deductible - but can you write off work clothes? Well, this article will give you some insight on the matter.

Is It Possible to Deduct The Cost Of Work Clothes?

If you had a job as a W2 employee, you would have to pay for the clothes yourself or your employer would reimburse you for it. But as a 1099 contractor, you can write off the cost for a work-clothes purchase.

To put it as simply as possible, you are able to deduct clothes that you wear for services/jobs - but only under certain circumstances. We'll get into the rules of what you can or can't deduct later on in the article.

Everything boils down to this: if you can wear the clothing for everyday use, then you cannot deduct those clothes. They need to be created so that you can wear them only at work, and nowhere else.

If you are looking for online software to track all your receipts for you, test-drive Bonsai's 1099 business expense tracker. We'll help you organize expenses and maximize your tax deductions for the year.

Requirements for Writing Off Clothes for Work

Whether you are the owner of a business or are self-employed, you probably know that there are certain purchases and taxes labeled as "business expense." With these 1099 tax deductions, you may reduce the expense for your business altogether, saving money upon your tax returns.

In order to deduct the cost of work apparel as a business expense, the gear needs to meet the following requirements:

No. 1: You Are Required to Wear It

This requirement was set with uniforms and protective gear in mind. For instance, if you are a 1099 construction contractor working at a job site, you can't show up with a random tee or shorts you have at home; you need overalls and protective gear. So, this would qualify as a construction worker tax deduction.

Or as a police officer, when you are on the job, you cannot go on-site without your uniform. You are required to wear it.

No. 2: It's Not Suitable For Everyday Wear

Let's compare suits and scrubs here. A suit can be required for a certain business or service. However, once you go off the clock, you can be dressed in it to the party that your neighbor throws that night. Because of this, suits aren't deductible.

Scrubs, on the other hand, are a different story. While they may seem very comfy, you won't see any doctors using their scrubs as they go grab a drink in their free time. You'll have on your plain clothing, just so you can avoid the stares and any awkward medical questions at dinner.

Is Laundry Also Deducted?

Laundry can also end up being messy and expensive - sometimes more expensive in the long run as the clothes themselves. For this reason, many people may be wondering whether those charges are tax-deductible or not.

And the answer for that is: yes, under the right circumstances, you can claim a laundry service for work clothes on your taxes. There are basically two different situations in which your laundry expenses may be deductible.

  1. Your clothing qualifies as being "deductible." In that case, the dry cleaning or laundry expenses may also be written off.
  2. If you have to travel for business purposes and you can prove it, then your laundry and dry cleaning expenses can also be deducted. This can be seen in IRS Publication 463. if you want to track all your available travel deductions, we recommend you try a travel expense tracker to automatically scan your receipts and discover tax write-offs.

In the end, you may want to review your work expenses and then discuss them with your tax professional or CPA for advice. Depending on the circumstances, they may be written off.

Examples of Work Attire that Count as Business Expense

Still not be sure which clothes can be tax deductible? Here are just a few examples of when you can deduct the cost of your work clothing as a tax expense.

Protective Gear

If you run a business, service, or have a job that needs protective clothing, then you should know that these clothes can be deducted. For instance, let's say that you have a construction company, and you need to provide work clothing to your employees.

In that case, purchases such as safety boots or hard hats can be essential, mainly because they are necessary for the well-being of the workers.


Entertainers, actors, and musicians may need to pay a lot for their work-related clothing and accessories. In this case, they may have their stage costumes deducted, with one condition: they cannot be suitable for everyday wear.

For example, a regular suit that you can also be dressed in on a day out is not tax-deductible according to the IRS. However, if you have a Victorian costume that could not be reasonably worn in everyday life, the chances are high that the apparel can be deducted.

While this may sound simple, it can occasionally prove challenging. It may be difficult to pinpoint what is and what is not suitable for daily life.

For example, a performer from Las Vegas was originally denied a tax deduction for her costumes. She only managed to deduct the costs when she went into court with the outfit in question and proved she was not able to sit properly while wearing it.

Uniforms and Work-Related Clothing

Uniforms worn at the workplace, just like protective gear, can also be tax deducted. The condition is that it needs to be obvious it is ineligible to be worn in your personal life and that they were created for work only.

For example, a polo or overalls that received the company logo can get a tax deduction. However, a pair of khaki pants that you have on with the polo shirt likely would not be - mainly because these could easily be worn as everyday clothing.

Scrubs are also usually deductible, as it's highly unlikely that you will have issues getting your return. There is no limit to how many pairs of scrubs can be deducted, as long as the purpose is clear.

With that in mind, each state may have different tax laws on what kinds can be deducted. This is why you always need to check your state laws.

Military uniforms are also technically work-oriented, as you can also be dressed in them easily outside. You see countless people wearing military apparel as a fashion statement, but you don't really see people wearing scrubs outside the hospital.

Therefore, unless there is a rule at the workplace preventing you from wearing your uniform outside, you are not able to write it off.

Professional Clothing

This is generally one of the most confusing clothing categories. For example, it might seem logical for you to be able to deduct a suit you bought for a conference, but things aren't that easy.

This is because while you bought the suit for that specific event, you can also wear it outside of work. It doesn't matter if you don't, and it ends up catching dust in your closet until the next time you need it for work.

What matters is that you can - and that given the opportunity, you may wear that suit somewhere else.

Promotional Clothing for Employees

If the clothing can be used to promote your company, then it's eligible for tax deductions. This will not only include the costs of the clothing itself, but also the cost of adding the logo of your business or services. Promotional clothing purchases may be claimed as a miscellaneous deduction while filing for the tax returns.

Steps for Claiming Deduction on Work Apparel

When claiming the tax deduction for your work gear, there are certain steps that you need to take. Ideally, you may want to discuss matters with your tax advisor first - but overall, here is what you should do:

Determine the Work Gear

While you may have some casual apparel that you sometimes use at work, you need to determine which are the pieces that you wear only as a condition of your employment and not in your personal life. These pieces of clothing must be designed with your workplace in mind if you wish to deduct the costs.

Safety protection gear can also be a tax write-off. For instance, the IRS' rules allows you to deduct hard hats (and other safety equipment), along with theatrical costumes.

Among pieces of clothing that don't qualify as a business expense are overalls. For that, you would have to pay tax. That being said, there is a catch there as well, in the form of whether it has the company logo or not.

Bibs and white dress shirts also don't qualify by themselves - not unless they have promotional purposes (with the logo). Suits may be required at work every day, but unless it's clear that it's the only purpose, then the set is not deductible.

It must be 100% evident that the piece of apparel is not fit to be worn outside of work. Once you figure that out, you can move on to the next step.

Read the Business Policies

When claiming tax deductions, you may want to keep the company policy close by. For example, as a construction site worker, it may be stated that you need to wear your hard hat while working.

Or maybe you are a pilot that needs to wear special shoes, the kind that has to be regularly polished. In that case, you may be able to cut down the tax, as the business is giving you no choice but to wear them.

Save All Receipts

You can't really deduct the taxes if you don't have the proof of purchase in the first place. That's why you need to organize and keep your receipts for taxes. In the event that the IRS has any questions for you, then you can show them the receipts. Once they see how much you had to spend, it should be much easier to write off on your taxes. We recommend you use our tax receipt organizer software to handle everything for you.

Claim the Tax Deductions For Clothes

You can write off clothes for the business you work at by going to the "Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions" section. You may find it on an attachment of your tax return, namely Schedule A (Form 1040).

Add the deduction there and take out 2% of the total adjusted gross income. The amount that you collect will depend on how much you spent.

The Verdict?

In the end, yes, clothing for work can be deductible - but there are certain limits you should consider. The requirements are as strict as a haircut tax deduction. If you need to wear them at work, and if you normally wouldn't wear them anywhere else, then you may write them off from your taxes. Remember to always consult a tax professional or CPA for tax advice.

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