The Internal Revenue Service has specific rules relating the types of uniforms and work-related clothing that can be claimed as a tax deduction on your federal income tax return. These rules extend past the purchase of the uniform itself and affect your eligibility to claim deductions for alterations, cleaning and dry cleaning.
IRS Definition of a Uniform
The IRS views the clothing you must wear to work as either ordinary or necessary. Ordinary clothing is not eligible for an income tax deduction. Some uniforms, such as the white overalls worn by painters, blue work clothes worn by welders and most military uniforms, are not eligible for a tax deduction because, technically, the item can be worn as casual wear. Necessary clothing or uniforms must be mandatory attire in your line of work and not appropriate for everyday wear off of the job.
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Tax Deduction Eligible Uniforms
Police officers, fire fighters and other law enforcement officers can deduct the cost of their uniforms as can delivery workers, mail carriers, transportation workers and professional athletes. Musicians and entertainers who must purchase costumes and accessories may deduct the cost of these items provided the item cannot act as street wear. For example, period costumes and accessories are deductible, while a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, even if purchased purely for the stage, are not. If you are a member of the military, such as a reservist, and are specifically instructed not to wear your uniform when off-duty, you can deduct the uniform cost. When your job requires you to purchase safety equipment or protective clothing, the costs of these materials and accessories is deductible.
Qualifying Deductions for Uniform Care
If your uniform is considered a necessary expense, then the cost of maintaining that uniform becomes deductible. When your uniform, costume or safety gear needs to be cleaned, altered or dry-cleaned, retain your receipt for your tax records. It is important to note that you can claim the cost of having your uniform cleaned, but that deducting the cost of laundry detergent and cleaning supplies for your household because your uniform is washed and cleaned at home is not appropriate.
Report your uniform costs on the "unreimbursed employee expense" line of Schedule A, Form 1040, Itemized Deductions. The IRS notes that amounts your employee reported as paid to you in Box 1 of your W-2 form are not considered reimbursed expenses and can still be claimed in this blank. However, if you receive a uniform allowance from your employer, the amount of the allowance should be removed from your reported costs. Subtract the allowance amount from the cost of your uniforms and upkeep and report the new total.