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“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”Mark Twain
I think most people would agree that clothes are pretty important. Clothing is a basic necessity of life, as HMRC describe it, “for warmth and decency”. This necessity is also why very few clothing expenses are allowable.
Business expenses have to be wholly and exclusively for business. It’s very hard to prove your clothes are wholly for business, when going without them wouldn’t be a practical option.
There are a few types of clothes that HMRC do recognise as potential business expenses. The three areas that are allowable are
HMRC defines a uniform as something that identifies the wearer as belonging to a particular profession. A person on the street should be able to recognise that someone is wearing a uniform rather than everyday clothes.
Think fancy dress for the most obvious examples. Police, nurse or firefighter uniforms are all favourites for fancy dress as they’re clearly identifiable. A waiter’s dinner jacket or evening dress would also be seen as a uniform for their profession. Similarly with a chef’s checked trousers and white hat.
The other aspect that can make something a uniform is if it carries branding or a logo for the business. If you get your company logo embroidered on a standard polo shirt, it can become an item of uniform as it clearly identifies you as working for that business.
Your clothing needs to have a permanent and conspicuous badge (or logo) if it’s going to be considered as a uniform. A removeable badge doesn’t count and you can’t claim for other – non branded items of clothing. Employees or staff all wearing similar design or colour clothes, is not enough to make that a uniform.
One type of protective clothing is something that goes over the top of your everyday clothes. This might include aprons, overall, lab coats etc. These are worn in addition to your everyday clothes and are protecting them.
If the main purpose of the protective clothing is to protect you from the elements, such as a coat, then it’s not allowed. It’s considered as something that you’d need to wear anyway.
Other types of protective clothing you can include are items that are necessary for safety or general protection. For example, heavy duty gloves, hardhats, steel toe-cap boots, hi-vis vest. You could also include trousers with reinforced knees if they were bought from a specialist workwear retailer. These type of items are designed as workwear and aren’t suitable for everyday wear.
The final category relates primarily to actors and entertainers. Clothing that you buy specifically to wear in a performance is considered as part of a costume and is allowed. This could apply to items that would normally be considered as everyday wear.
You can also include expenses that relate to the repair and upkeep of your uniform or protective equipment, where necessary. Upkeep can also include cleaning or a contribution towards laundry costs.
Repair or cleaning costs for your everyday clothes aren’t allowed, even if they were damaged through work or only worn for work.
Company directors, you need to make sure any clothing you are claiming as business expenses meets one of these criteria otherwise there could be some personal tax liability.
Any clothing that your employer provides or pays for, which doesn’t fall into one of these categories, could potentially be considered as a benefit in kind.
If the clothing doesn’t fall under one of those categories then it’s not allowable.
Everyday clothing is not allowed if you could wear it outside of your work environment. It is the COULD that’s important, regardless of whether you DO actually wear it outside work.
If you buy a suit to wear at work in order to look professional and conform to the general image of your workplace, it’s not allowable.
If you have clothes that you only wear at work, they are not allowable unless they are branded and become a uniform. This would apply across many professions where clothes might get dirty, or where a particular type of clothing is required e.g. gym wear.
If clothes aren’t uniform , protective or a costume and you could wear them outside of your work (even if you don’t) then they’re not allowable.
However you can turn everyday clothes into a uniform by adding a conspicuous badge or branding to the item.
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