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Claiming Tax Deductions for Work Clothing

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Do you need to wear a suit to work? Or perhaps you need to wear a uniform emblazoned with your company’s logo? Perhaps you work in a clothes shop and have to come to work wearing clothes bought in that store? It’s important to clarify your employer’s dress code policy so you can confirm how to claim clothes come tax time. 

To help you make the most of your work related clothing deductions, but also stay on the right side of the rules and avoid any issues with the ATO, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide outlining what you can and can’t claim:

WHAT WORK RELATED CLOTHING EXPENSES CAN I CLAIM?

When it comes to what you wear to work, there are some clothes-related deductions you can claim, including the cost of buying and cleaning occupation-specific clothing such as:

  • Protective and unique clothing (i.e. not everyday wear)

  • Clothing that easily identifies your occupation, like checked chef trousers

  • Distinctive uniforms

  • Clothing and footwear that you wear to protect yourself from the risk of illness or injury posed by your job or the environment in which you do your job. To be considered protective, the items must provide a sufficient degree of protection against that risk, and might include:

    • Fire-resistant and sun-protection clothing (including sunglasses)

    • Hi-vis vests

    • Non-slip nurse's shoes

    • Rubber boots for concreters

    • Steel-capped boots, gloves, overalls, and heavy-duty shirts and trousers

    • Overalls, smocks and aprons you wear to avoid damage or soiling to your ordinary clothes whilst at work.

WHAT CLOTHING DEDUCTIONS ARE NOT CLAIMABLE?

Only items that are specific to a particular occupation – and cannot be worn outside of that workplace – can be claimed as work clothing. This means: 

  • You can’t claim the cost of purchasing or cleaning any kind of office attire or business suits, but also clothing such as a bartender’s black trousers and white shirt.

  • If you work in a clothing store, you also can’t claim the cost of clothing you purchased in that store, even if you’re required to wear it to work, as those items of clothing are not specific to your occupation (you could also wear them outside work).

Ordinary clothes (such as jeans, shirts, shorts, trousers, socks, closed shoes) are not regarded as ‘protective clothing’ if they lack protective qualities designed for the risks of your work. For example, it could be argued that closed toe shoes provide a level of protection for your feet from work-place hazards, but unless that protection is something specific, over-and-above a general level of foot protection, you’re unable to claim a deduction.

CLAIMING THE COST OF WORK UNIFORMS

Compulsory work uniform

This is defined as a uniform that identifies you as an employee of an organisation. The uniform must be compulsory to wear while you're at work with a strictly enforced policy ensuring its enforcement. If this is true of your uniform, the cost is deductible. Typical occupations where a compulsory uniform is required include police officers, nurses, military personnel, airline staff and supermarket staff.

Shoes, socks and stockings might also be claimed as a deduction if they are an essential part of a distinctive compulsory uniform. Their colour, style and type must be specified in your employer's uniform policy, as is sometimes the case with air stewardesses and nurses. It might also be possible to claim for a single item of distinctive clothing, such as a jumper, if it's compulsory to wear to work.

Non-compulsory work uniform

In some instances, you can claim for a non-compulsory uniform if it is unique and distinctive to your organisation. Clothing is considered unique if it has been designed and made solely for your employer. Distinctive clothing must have your employer's logo permanently attached and not be available for public purchase.

You can't claim the cost of purchasing or cleaning a plain, logo-free uniform, such as the generic white shirts or black trousers worn by wait staff. Non-compulsory work uniforms are usually required to have a design registered with AusIndustry in order to be tax deductible. Shoes, socks and stockings aren’t considered part of a non-compulsory work uniform and neither is a single item such as a jumper.

DRY CLEANING OF WORK CLOTHING

It’s possible to claim the costs of washing, drying, ironing and dry-cleaning eligible work clothes. Written evidence for your laundry expenses, such as diary entries and receipts must be kept if both the amount of your claim is greater than $150, and your total claim for work-related expenses exceeds $300. 

Instead, for washing, drying and ironing you do yourself, the ATO allows you to use the following amounts to work out your laundry claim:

  • $1 per load (this includes washing, drying and ironing) if the load is made up only of work-related clothing, and

  • 50 cents per load if other laundry items are included.

Learn more about work-related expenses you can claim.

CLOTHING DEDUCTIONS FOR NURSES

It’s possible to claim a deduction for the cost of clothing that’s specific to your work as a nurse. Some of the nurse specific deductions you can claim include:

  • Registration fees and memberships

  • Uniforms, laundry and non-slip shoes

  • Conferences and self-education

  • Tools of your trade, including stethoscopes and other medical equipment, reference books, and nursing fobs

  • Mobiles or pagers if you’re on call.

You might be able to claim for the cost of laundering and dry-cleaning your eligible work clothes (such as non-slip shoes, socks, stockings or a tie) if they are deemed compulsory and an essential part of your work gear. This includes occupation-specific clothing, which are garments that aren’t every day in nature and would allow the public to easily recognise you as a nurse. 

More about tax returns for nurses.

CLOTHING DEDUCTIONS FOR DRIVERS

Unfortunately professional drivers cannot claim the cost of ordinary or conventional clothing, even when the clothes are purchased specifically for work. However, you are allowed to claim the cost of a compulsory enforced uniform that identifies you as an employee of a specific organization, which could include shirts, pants, skirts, jackets and jumpers.

Other driver specific expenses that can be offset from your tax include:

  • Sunglasses and other sun protection items (including sunscreen, hats and sun-protection shirts)

  • Protective equipment not supplied by your employer (including overalls, gloves, goggles, masks, steel-capped boots, high-vis vests and winter jackets)

  • Stationery, diary, log books, work bag or briefcases

More about tax returns for drivers.

H&R BLOCK CAN HELP

H&R Block can help you claim your work-related clothing expenses and maximise your tax refund. You can lodge your return online or in one of our many office locations around Australia.

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