Tax Tip 2: How to Claim Clothing as a Business Expense

Perhaps the biggest urban myth adopted by people starting their own business is that you can claim the cost of business clothes against tax. In most cases, you can’t.

The taxman has different rules for clothes that are

- everyday clothes

- a uniform

- protective clothing

- a costume

Everyday clothes

Many a keen business student amongst you will remember the case of Mallalieu v Drummond [1983]. A barrister claimed the cost of replacing and laundering her court clothes against tax as it was a requirement of her profession to dress in a certain way to attend court. The House of Lords refused this.

A business cannot claim against tax the costs of clothing which forms part of an ‘everyday' wardrobe. This remains so even where the taxpayer can show that they only wear such clothing in the course of their profession – whether they are a recruitment consultant, a software engineer or a taxi driver. It is irrelevant that the person chooses not to wear the clothing in question on non-business occasions, the only question is whether the clothing might suitably be worn as part of a hypothetical person’s ‘everyday' wardrobe.

Most professionals have to keep up appearances but their clothing costs are not. allowable. This rule applies to the accountant’s suit, the software techies check shirt, and the gym instructor’s trainers. The clothes have a professional purpose, but are also worn for warmth and decency.

So how can I claim clothing costs as a business expense?

Uniform

The cost of clothing that is not part of an ‘everyday' wardrobe can be claimed against tax. This would include uniforms for the police and nurses for example. Clothing with an embroidered company logo would also fit the uniform definition.

Protective clothing

The cost of clothing work to protect a worker against injury or for health and safety purposes is tax deductible. This can apply in particular to the trades industries (work-boots, hard hat, knee pads, gloves, overalls etc.)

Costume

Ever wondered why actresses spend so much money on a dress for a film premiere (other than to get in the papers)? Because its tax deductible of course! In the taxman’s own words “A film actress may acquire an evening gown solely for the purpose of attending the premiere performance of her latest film. The cost of the gown is allowable (against tax)”

The cost of clothing acquired for a film, stage or TV performance is also allowable. The clothing in such event is not part of ‘an everyday wardrobe'; it is ‘costume’ used in a performance.