Can I Deduct the Cost of Work Clothing?
Depending on where we work or our specialty, health care professionals may be required to wear certain types of clothing. Often the requirement for certain clothing has an infection control or hygienic purpose or is designed so that specific professionals can be easily recognized. Regardless of the case, we will often purchase these items without reimbursement.
At first glance, since we are required to wear specific clothing, we would expect the purchase to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, this logic does not gel with the IRS as a recent tax court case involving an airline stewardess illustrated. (Mary A. Scott v. Commissioner., U.S. Tax Court, T.C. Summary Opinion 2010-47, Apr. 15, 2010)
In the court case, Ms. Scott was required to wear a uniform provided by her airline, and as a compliment to the uniform, wear black shoes and hosiery. Ms. Scott deducted the shoes and hosiery on her tax return assuming that since she did not normally wear these items outside of work, they would be allowed as a deduction. The Tax Court disagreed. Expenses for uniforms and related items are deductible only if the clothing is of a type specifically required as a condition of employment, is not adaptable to general use as ordinary clothing, and is not worn as ordinary clothing. The fact that an individual would not wear the clothing in their normal fashion repertoire does not modify the regulations. Since the shoes and hosiery were adaptable to everyday wear, her claim was not allowed.
In many venues, medical professionals are required to wear polo shirts, khaki pants, sneakers and other “uniforms” that have a marketing purpose. Similar to Ms. Scott’s black shoes and hosiery, since these items could be worn as everyday wear, they would not be deductible. A company logo on a polo shirt may support the deduction, but this has not to our knowledge been tested in court. Items like scrubs, lab coats, specialty shoes adapted for the work environment and similar items are all deductible under the regulations.
About the author:
Joseph Smith is an IRS Enrolled Agent and former travel respiratory therapist whose firm (TravelTax LLC) provides tax preparation and audit representation for the mobile professional. He is a regular contributor to HealthcareTraveler, Locum Life and a speaker at the annual Travel Medical Professionals Convention. For more travel nursing tax advice, visit TravelTax.com.
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