Can You Deduct Clothing on Federal Taxes?

by Lee Grayson

Select clothing items may be deducted on federal personal income tax as business expenses, but the tax code mandates meeting strict standards for use of the clothing. Even when clothing is deductible under Internal Revenue Service regulations, the calculation is limited to expenses in excess of 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Military Uniforms

Military uniforms for full-time service members may not be deducted from personal income tax if the active service member receives a uniform allowance. Uniforms banned from off-duty wear receive special treatment by the IRS. The cost of buying and maintaining these uniforms may be deducted. If a uniform allowance fails to meet the cost associated with buying, cleaning and maintaining the mandated clothing, the balance may be deducted. Military reservists may deduct the costs in excess of the standard uniform allotment, providing the clothing is banned from use outside normal military service.

Work Uniforms

Employees required to wear uniforms to work may deduct the cost of the clothing and maintenance, including repair, if your employer mandates wearing specific uniforms. Clothing must not be suitable for street wear. Branded uniforms with company logos or embroidery identifying the firm may be deducted. It seems logical when you must wear a business suit to work that the IRS would allow a tax deduction for purchasing a suit and dress necktie, but don't be so quick to list your suit and tie as a tax deductions. A suit and tie may be worn for other occasions outside of work and are not deductible under the tax laws. While a letter carrier uniform may be deductible, white painter bib overalls may be worn by a painter for non-work activities and may not be deducted according to IRS rules.

Medical And Protective Clothing

Clothing, including special shoes and socks for diabetic conditions prescribed by your doctor, may be deducted as part of medical expenses. Occupations requiring protective clothing, including firefighting, pipefitting, oil field work and chemical work, may deduct the cost of safety items such as goggles, gloves and hard hats. Protective boots and shoes may also be required when the product meets safety standards for the profession.

Clothing Donations

Clothing in like-new or wearable condition when donated to charitable organizations may be deducted on federal income taxes. The IRS allows a donation of up to $500 without an attachment of an itemized tax form. Donated items in excess of the $500 limit also require a copy of an appraisal of the item or items filed with the completed tax forms. A qualified agent must do appraisals and the fees may not be deducted. Antique or collectible clothing may be deducted only for the cost of comparable modern clothing. IRS deductions use fair market value for the donated clothing. The agency defines fair market value as the price "at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts." The IRS suggests visiting a thrift store to determine prices for used garments.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

Photo Credits

  • highly visibility clothing sign image by hazel proudlove from