I have to wear nice suits when I meet with my clients.  The sharper I look, it seems the more confidence they have in my ability.  It’s funny.  I can actually be a total bozo but if I have a tailored, high priced suit on and sharp shoes, then anything I say has to be true. (Fortunately, I do know what I am talking about, so all of my clients reading this-have no fear!)

So, being that I have to have a high priced wardrobe for my line of work, I should be able to deduct this on my income tax return correct?  No.  The IRS does not allow this.

Here is the exact IRS ruling:

You can deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes if the following two requirements are met.

  • You must wear them as a condition of your employment.
  • The clothes are not suitable for everyday wear.

It is not enough that you wear distinctive clothing. The clothing must be specifically required by your employer. Nor is it enough that you do not, in fact, wear your work clothes away from work. The clothing must not be suitable for taking the place of your regular clothing.

Examples of workers who may be able to deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes are: delivery workers, firefighters, health care workers, law enforcement officers, letter carriers, professional athletes, and transportation workers (air, rail, bus, etc.).

Musicians and entertainers can deduct the cost of theatrical clothing and accessories that are not suitable for everyday wear.

However, work clothing consisting of white cap, white shirt or white jacket, white bib overalls, and standard work shoes, which a painter is required by his union to wear on the job, is not distinctive in character or in the nature of a uniform. Similarly, the costs of buying and maintaining blue work clothes worn by a welder at the request of a foreman are not deductible. Therefore, my suits as needed and required for my profession are not deductible.

Usually, the IRS prevails in disputes over deductions for business suits and dresses, because they are obviously appropriate away from work.  Here are two cases that went to tax court and the outcome in case you want to roll the dice on this:

In a 1986 case, nationally ranked Chicago tennis pro Cecil Mella lost a match with the IRS over business write-offs for tennis clothes. Cecil worked for two private tennis clubs, both of which barred players, including instructors, from playing on the courts unless they wore proper attire. He deducted such items as warm-up jackets and pants; shirts with a collar; shorts that were brief to give maximum freedom of movement and had pockets for tennis balls; and shoes, each pair of which lasted only two or three weeks and were designed, according to Cecil, to decrease the chances of injuries.

Cecil said he wore the items only when playing or teaching. But the Tax Court noted: “It is relatively commonplace for Americans in all walks of life to wear warm-up clothes, shirts and shoes of the type purchased by the defendant while engaged in a wide variety of casual or athletic activities.” As for the shoes’ safety functions, the court characterized his statements as “uncorroborated and vague.” Decision: No deductions for expenses that weren’t ordinary and necessary.

In a 1979 decision, the tax court also threw out deductions for suits bought by Edward J. Kosmal, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney who planned to leave government service. Ed decided that the right way to impress his future employers and colleagues was to upgrade his wardrobe to the standards of a “big-time Beverly Hills personal injury attorney.” The court denied the deductions because, unquestionably, the clothes were fitting for ordinary wear.

So bottom line is that you can spend as much money to look as fashionable as you need to, but don’t try to deduct it on your business or personal return unless you want an audit.