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Claiming Tax Deductions for Work Clothing

By H&R Block 8 min read

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 clothing that is not suitable for everyday wear such as:

  • Protective 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 items such as business suits or office attire unless the items are part of a compulsory or non-compulsory uniform (see below), or the the cost of purchasing or cleaning clothing such as a bartender's black trousers and white shirt. These items are suitable for normal wear.

  • 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-in 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 uniform policy. 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.

DEDUCTION FOR PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

In addition to protective clothing, a deduction can be claimed for other protective items such as: Sun protection items such as  sunscreen and hats, masks and sanitisers, safety glasses (including prescription safety glasses).
 

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.

Book an online appointment today

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