Tax Tip Tuesday: When Can You Deduct the Cost of Clothing?

Stephen Fishman
Tax expert and contributor MileIQ

Do you have to dress nicely for work? Wouldn’t it be grand if you could deduct the cost of clothing? Unfortunately, most people can’t. The IRS says you can deduct the cost of clothing only if:

  • it is essential for your business
  • it is not suitable for ordinary street wear, and
  • you don’t wear the clothing outside of business.

Thus, for example, you may deduct the cost of uniforms or special work clothes not suitable for personal wear, such as nurse’s uniforms, theatrical costumes and special sanitary clothing or clothing with
 a company logo. But clothing that you can wear on the street is not deductible—for example, you can’t deduct the cost of business suits.

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Courts have also disallowed deductions for a tennis pro outfit and a house painting uniform because both of these could be worn on the street.

In one noteworthy tax case, Don Teschner, a musician in Rod Stewart’s band, attempted to deduct various items of stage clothing, including silk boxers, leather pants, men’s underwear, hats and a vest. The tax court rejected out of hand any deduction for the silk boxers and underwear, declaring that underwear clearly could not qualify as a business expense. The majority of the remaining clothes were likewise not deductible because they could be adapted for street wear.

However, there were some items that the court deemed too “flashy” or “loud” to be acceptable for ordinary wear and it allowed Teschner a $200 deduction for them. The moral: Wear “loud” clothes on stage if you’re a rock musician and want a tax deduction. (Teschner v. Comm’r, TC Memo 1997-498.)

If you think this case is unusual, there are more strange but true tax stories of off-beat tax deductions. Read our article, “When Can You Deduct a Cruise?”, for more examples of unusual but legitimate and qualified tax deductions.

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