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  • Richwood Accountants

Can I claim work related clothing expenses?

A Few Quick Facts:

The expenses that are deductible in relation to uniforms are the cost of obtaining the uniform (either purchasing it, or hiring it), as well as the cost of maintaining and cleaning it.

The cost of maintaining, cleaning and hiring uniforms are only deductible if the clothing itself is allowable.

To claim uniform and laundry expenses, they must fall under one of the following categories: protective clothing, compulsory work uniform, non-compulsory work uniform, or occupation specific clothing (explained further below).

If you have received a uniform or protective clothing from your employer at no cost, you can still claim the cost of maintaining and cleaning it, as long as it falls under one of the categories explained below.

If you are reimbursed for an expense, the expense is not deductible.

If you receive an allowance for an expense, you can only claim the expense if you also declare the allowance as income.

You cannot claim ordinary black pants even if they form part of your uniform.

Even if you only wear your clothes for work, you cannot claim them as a deduction unless they fall under one of the categories explained below.

Laundry Expenses:

The cost of laundry at home is calculated on the basis of $1.00 per load if only the uniform is being washed, or $0.50 per load if the uniform is being washed with other clothes. The same applies if the uniform is washed at the laundromat, unless a diary or the receipts of the total of actual expenses incurred is kept. A claim for dry cleaning is the total of the actual expenses incurred.

Where laundry expenses exceed $150, and the total work expenses are less than $300, written evidence of laundry expenses is not required. However, where laundry expenses exceed $150 and total work expenses exceed $300, written evidence of all expenses, including laundry expenses, must be kept.

Written evidence includes receipts that show what, where and when an item was purchased and how much it cost, or a diary showing the expenses.

Protective Clothing:

As defined by Taxation Ruling (TR) 98/5, protective clothing is “clothing that when worn while working protects a taxpayer or others from death, disease, injury, damage to other clothing worn or from damage to artificial or medical appliances used.” Examples of clothing that protects from injury or death can include steel cap boots, safety helmets, gloves, fire resistant clothing, high vis clothes, or sun protection. Overalls, dust jackets and aprons are examples of clothing that can minimize damage to other clothing worn. However, you can only claim a deduction for these items if you can prove that they are necessary. For example, a math teacher cannot claim steel cap boots as protective clothing.

Protective clothing does not include conventional shoes, even if the soles are non-slip. Non-slip shoes are only deductible for nurses. Commonly worn wet-weather gear is also not deductible. Heavy duty clothing (for example, drill shirts and pants) are only deductible when the taxpayer can prove that the extra protection given by heavy duty clothing is necessary to prevent injury.

Compulsory Work Uniform:

TR 98/5 states that “to be compulsory, the wearing of the uniform must be strictly and consistently enforced except where it is impossible to enforce.” A deduction can only be claimed for the cost of a set or a single item of clothing as compulsory if it is distinctive, not able to be worn by the general public, and there is a policy that strictly enforces the employee to wear it while at work.

Clothing is distinctive and unique if it has been designed and made only for the employer and if it has the employer’s logo permanently attached and is not available to the public.

Ordinary, everyday clothing does not form a part of a compulsory work uniform, even if it is required by your employer to wear it. As stated on the ATO website, socks, shoes and stockings are generally not deductible, only in limited circumstances, if they are an essential part of a distinctive compulsory uniform and their characteristics are an integral and distinctive part of your uniform that your employer specifies in the uniform policy.

Non-Compulsory Work Uniform:

According to TR 98/5, a non-compulsory work uniform “is similar to a compulsory uniform in that it identifies the employer, but the wearing of the clothing at work is not compulsory, or, if compulsory, the wearing of the clothing is not consistently enforced”. To claim for non-compulsory uniform, the employer must have registered the design with AusIndustry, which means the uniform is on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing and you wear the uniform at work. A single item of clothing, for example, a shirt, or shoes, socks and stockings, can never form part of a non-compulsory work uniform.

Occupation Specific Clothing:

Occupation specific clothing is “clothing that distinctively identifies the wearer as a person associated with a particular profession, trade, vocation, occupation or calling” (TR 98/5). Occupation specific clothing allows members or the public to easily recognize the taxpayer’s occupation, for example, chef’s check pants. Clothing that can be worn in a number of occupations is not occupation specific, and shoes, socks, and stockings can never form part of occupation specific clothing.

In general, conventional clothing is not occupation specific. The only time it can be claimed as occupation specific is when there is a significant connection between the money spent on the clothes and the taxpayer’s income producing activities, for example, a professional actor that purchases clothing to wear on stage as part of a costume in a particular production.