Can I write off clothes I wear for work?

Tl;dr - Yes, as long you HAVE to wear it for work, and would ONLY wear for work.

In the wake of the 2019 Met Gala, every tabloid in America is buzzing over the extravagant outfits and expensive accessories. From Katy Perry’s chandelier dress to Cardi B’s spectacular red-feather gown, every outfit was designed to wow and shared the singular purpose of being worn at the Gala.

What the tabloids won’t tell you, however, is that in addition to being able to attend one of the most elite parties of the year, most of the celebrities in attendance are eligible to fully deduct the cost of their attire. Why? The IRS allows for certain items of clothing to be written off as “business expenses” depending on the nature of their use. To qualify, the clothing has to meet two basic requirements:

Requirement #1 - You have to wear it for your work

This rule is meant with uniforms in mind, but includes other items that are necessary and practical to complete your work. Some examples include: a hard hat for a construction job, wearing a bandana and t-shirt to get a dog-walking bonus from Wag!, or buying a crazy hat for an acting audition. Bottom line: to keep your paycheck, you have to wear it..  

Requirement #2 - You would only wear it for work

Think “scrubs” here. Sure, scrubs look comfy, but a doctor or nurse isn’t going to wear their scrubs on a night out. So even if your employer requires you to wear a plain black t-shirt on your job, you still can’t necessarily write it off on your taxes. Why? Because you can wear a plain black t-shirt on your personal time and won’t get strange looks (or get asked medical questions at dinner).

Requirement


These two rules are intentionally limiting so that people don’t go nuts and try to write-off their shopping sprees (see examples of tax court cases cases here). On the bright side, if you DO meet these two requirements, you can also write off the cost of upkeep such as dry cleaning or alterations.

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Unfortunately, only 1099 contractors can write off clothing on their taxes. If you are a regular W2 employee, you either have to swallow the cost yourself or have your employer reimburse you for it.

For a celebrity like Cadi B, her look is a big part of what sells her brand. Wearing a giant red feather dress to the Met Gala increased her brand recognition. Chances are that Katy will never wear that dress again (and definitely not on her personal time), so as far as the IRS cares, it’s a totally legit tax deductible work expense.

Keeper automatically monitors your purchases for common work uniform outlets, like Aramark, and makes sure you get the tax write off you deserve.

Sarah Y.

Sarah is an Enrolled Agent with the IRS and has 6 years of tax and accounting experience. She's an avid hiker, animal lover, and self-proclaimed chocolate connoisseur.

Sarah Y.

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Note: at Keeper, we care about helping you save on taxes. That leads us to generalize tax advice which ultimately cannot be completely generalized. Everyone's situation is different. Please drop a note above or reach out via email if you have questions.