Is Clothing for Work Tax Deductible? Everything You Need to Know

Everyone needs to wear clothing for work, but can you claim those new boots or that tailored suit on your taxes? Generally speaking, some clothing for work is tax deductible, but as with all things tax-related, the answer is not that simple. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) doesn’t view all items of clothing worn for work in exactly the same way. So while you certainly can claim some work-related clothing expenses, you likely won’t be able to deduct everything you’ve spent on your work wardrobe.

Still, all those expenses add up, so you do want to claim back every little bit that you can. This is why it pays to understand exactly what you can deduct when it comes to clothing. To make this task easier for you, we’ve broken everything down into this easy-to-follow guide. Let’s start with the biggest question on your mind:

What Clothing for Work Is Tax Deductible?

You can claim the expenses for any work-related, occupation-specific clothing that is protective, unique for your work, or in a distinctive uniform style. To qualify as a uniform, your work clothing must distinctly identify you as an employee of a certain organisation.

Some of the main occupations that call for compulsory uniforms include police officers, nurses, military personnel, airline staff, housekeepers, and supermarket staff. Outside of these highly specific uniforms, there is a bit of a grey area that accommodates items like the chequered pants worn by chefs and the white coats worn by doctors.

Pro tax tip: Think your work clothing might qualify for a tax deduction, but you’re not sure? Check with a certified tax accountant before making a claim. This will ensure you don’t get into hot water with the ATO for claiming something you’re not entitled to. To check over your tax return and make sure your clothing deductions are correct, call ITP on 1800 367 487 or book an appointment at your nearest branch.

How Much Can You Claim for Protective Clothing?

Protective clothing describes anything you must wear for your job to guard yourself against illness or risk of injury. These items must provide a sufficient degree of protection against risk. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Fire-resistant clothing
  • Sun-protective clothing like hats and sunglasses
  • High-vis vests
  • Non-slip shoes
  • Rubber boots
  • Steel-capped boots
  • Gloves
  • Overalls
  • Heavy-duty shirts and trousers
  • Smocks and aprons

For an item of clothing to be considered protective by the ATO’s standards, it must be made to cope with rigorous conditions where conventional clothing couldn’t stand up to the task. It should also be designed specifically for protection and, if you work outdoors, should have a density of weave which gives a UV rating sufficient to protect you from the sun.

Can I Claim My Work Uniform as a Tax Deduction?

Is the uniform you wear to work really a uniform? It might feel like a uniform to you, but the ATO has a strict code when it comes to classifying uniforms as work-related. Your uniform must be unique and distinctive to the organisation. That is, the uniform must be designed specifically for the employer and should not be available to the general public. A McDonald’s uniform is an easy example as it has a permanently attached logo and is also clearly designed for work-related purposes.

Under this code, a work-related uniform is one the company you work for requires you to wear when performing your job. You might be able to claim the cost of shoes, socks, and stockings if they are an essential part of your distinctive uniform, and the colours, style and type are specified as a part of that uniform. For example, if you work as a nurse or air hostess and have strict rules surrounding the clothing items you can and can’t wear.

Pro Tax Tip: If your employer requires you to wear a non-compulsory uniform and has registered the design with AusIndustry, you can claim the cost of the uniform and cleaning expenses. You will not be able to claim the cost of shoes, socks, and stockings for a non-compulsory uniform.


What Evidence Do You Need When Claiming Work Clothes on Tax?

To claim work clothes as a tax deduction, you must be out-of-pocket for the expense, you must have already paid for the expense, and you must be able to show proof of purchase. Usually, a receipt or tax invoice will be sufficient to support your claim.

Pro Tax Tip: Do you receive an allowance from your employer for clothing, uniforms, laundry, or dry cleaning? Don’t forget to include that amount as assessable income in your tax return. Your allowance counts toward your income, so you can still claim your expenses. If you’re at all unsure about how this works, contact ITP today and one of our friendly accountants will be happy to help.

What Can’t You Claim on Tax?

You will indeed need a certain standard of work clothing in your wardrobe, but the ATO is strict about what it considers work and private clothing. Legally, you can only claim items of clothing that couldn’t be worn for anything other than work purposes. These items must also be highly distinctive for your occupation.

You may be surprised to learn that clothing items such as business suits do not qualify, even if they meet the dress code set out by your employer. The same would be true for black pants purchased for a hospitality job or a white shirt bought for conducting music lessons.

Jeans, drill shirts, shorts, trousers, socks, and closed shoes all provide some sort of protection in the workplace. However, they are also ordinary items of clothing as they do not incorporate adequate protective qualities for the risks at your work.

Pro Tax Tip: You can’t claim the cost of purchasing or cleaning a plain uniform or the expense of a non-compulsory uniform.


Laundry Tax Deduction

If your work clothes qualify for a tax deduction, you may also be able to claim expenses related to cleaning, washing, drying, dry cleaning, and ironing your clothes. This is true even if the clothing is supplied by your employer. However, as with all things tax-related, there are rules.

Pro Tax Tip: Does your employer reimburse you for your cleaning expenses? You won’t be able to claim the cost of cleaning your work-related clothing.

How to Claim Laundry Expenses on Tax

You’ll need to provide written evidence in the form of receipts if the amount of your claim is more than $150 and if the total claim of work-related expenses exceeds $300 (not including car, meal, award transport payments allowances, and travel allowance expenses.) If your laundry expenses tally up to less than $150, or if your total claim for work-related expenses is less than $300 ( including your laundry expenses), you won’t need a diary or written evidence.

Pro Tax Tip: Is your total claim for work-related expenses more than $300? You must provide written evidence for your other work-related claims as well.

You can claim washing, drying, and ironing you do yourself using the following ATO formula:

  • $1 per load if it contains only work-related clothing items
  • 50 cents per load if you’re washing work clothes with other items

If you require dry cleaning or another specialist service for your work-related clothing, you can claim the actual expenses. However, you must have written evidence.

Regardless of the way you launder your clothing, it’s a good idea to record the number of washes you do. The ATO will want to know how you arrived at your calculation. Simply claiming the full $150 may promote unwanted scrutiny from the ATO. So it’s worth taking the time to calculate your laundry expenses properly.

Claiming Clothing Expense FAQ

Q: My employer told me I need to wear plain black pants and a black polo shirt for work. Can I claim those items of clothing?

A: You can’t claim the cost of the items or the laundry expenses. These items are not distinctive to your employer and could be worn privately, so they don’t count as a work-related uniform.

Q: My employer told me to wear plain black pants and has supplied a top with the company logo. Can I claim those costs?

A: You won’t be able to claim the cost of the pants as they are everyday in nature. They’re also not sufficiently distinctive to your employer. You can, however, claim laundry costs for the top.

Q: My employer told me to purchase and wear black pants and a specific top with a logo on it. What can I claim?

A: You can claim the up-front expense of the top as well as laundering expenses, alterations, or repairs. You cannot claim the purchase price or laundering expense of the pants.

Q: My employer told me to purchase and wear a specific top with a logo on it and buy my pants from a specific store. What can I claim?

A: If your employer requires you to purchase the top and the logo makes it distinctive to the organisation, you can claim the purchase expense and laundry expenses. Although your employer has asked you to purchase the pants from a specific store, they still don’t meet the ATO’s standard for unique and distinctive, so you cannot claim them.

Q: My employer suggested I purchase a non-compulsory uniform of a certain style and colour that is registered with AusIndustry. The uniform is a shirt with a logo and black pants. What can I claim?

A: You can claim both the purchase expense and laundering expenses for the top and pants under these circumstances.

Q: I’ve just got a job in a clothing store and my employer has told me I need to wear the latest line of clothing from the store. What can I claim?

A: Unfortunately, you can’t claim the cost of plain clothing you wear at work, even if it’s clothing sold at the store you work at and your employer requires you to wear it.

Want to maximise your tax refund? ITP’s Accounting Professionals can help you work out and claim all of your clothing-related expenses and more. You’re bound to be surprised by at least a few expenses you didn’t know you could claim! Phone 1800 367 487 or book online today. You can lodge your tax return online or come into one of our many branches throughout Australia.