The IRS considers clothes that are everyday wear as nondeductible. This means your prom dress, wedding gown, Halloween costume or any other special occasion outfit is disqualified from becoming a deduction.
If you have to wear overalls for your construction job or a black shirt and pants for the formal restaurant where you work, they don’t qualify. If your employer requires a certain color or style of shirt, pants or shoes, that won’t cut it either.
So now we know a lot of work clothing doesn’t qualify for a deduction. But the IRS does make an exception for three types of clothing: work uniforms, costumes and safety gear.
You’ve probably been wondering, are work uniforms tax deductible? Yes, they are for self-employed people, even if they are used work clothes. This will change in 2024, when employees will be able to take a uniform for work tax deduction, but not until then, thanks to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).
You’ll need a special uniform if you work as a firefighter for your local fire department, for example. The cost for purchasing, renting, repairing or getting the uniform dry cleaned is tax deductible.
Or, if you work as a delivery driver for Instacart
, you’ll probably need a special uniform with the company’s logo. Again, the cost of your uniform counts as a write-off.
The logo holds great power in whether or not the clothing can be written off as work clothes.
Some protective gear qualifies as business clothes such as medical scrubs, facemasks, reflective vests, gloves and safety goggles. However, the profession on your tax return needs to match the type of work requiring this sort of safety gear. Someone who likes to do science experiments in their garage can’t deduct their safety goggles or lab coat since they’re being used for leisure purposes.
If you work as a bricklayer on a construction site, your hard hat, safety gloves and reflective vest would qualify since your profession matches the required safety equipment.
Musicians and those in the entertainment industry can deduct their costumes and accessories as work clothing as long as they can’t be worn as everyday clothing. But this can be a gray area for many when a CPA or auditor takes a look at a tax return. Some performance clothes and costumes are deemed to be ordinary wear in the eyes of the IRS and are therefore not eligible for a deduction.
Makeup and cosmetics
Although it’s important to keep up your appearance when working as a professional, you can’t deduct the cost of getting a haircut, a manicure, a pedicure or makeup. This is because the IRS considers these as personal expenses and are not eligible as a write-off.
If you use makeup or cosmetics exclusively for work, like if you have your own entertainment or theater gig, then you’re eligible for the deduction.
As a self-employed makeup artist, makeup is required for your business and you can write this off as a business expense.
Any tax-deductible clothing is eligible for a dry cleaning deduction. Also, if you’re traveling on a business trip
, you’ll need some clean clothes to wear to your client meeting or conference. Luckily, dry cleaning is considered a business expense since having clean clothes is necessary for your work.