Cost of clothing

We all need to wear clothes for work, whether we opt for jeans and shirts, smart suits, or, as Liz Jackson put it, whether we “stumble out of bed and work in… pyjamas”.

The question is, is tax relief available on the cost of that clothing?

And the answer… as so often with tax… is “It depends”!

What does it depend on?

Well, mainly, what the clothing is, and why it was bought.

Protective clothing

Working on a building site, or railway line, and need protective clothing such as overalls, steel toe-capped boots, a helmet, or a high-visibility jacket?

Absolutely fine to claim tax relief on that, and if you’re an employee and your employer buys it for you, there’s no taxable benefit.


The same applies to some uniforms.

HMRC’s description is “a recognisable uniform that shows you’ve got a certain sort of job - like a nurse’s or police uniform”.

Tax relief is available on the cost of those, too.

Flat rate deductions for certain trades

If you have to buy specialist tools or clothing, and you’re in certain trades, then rather than claiming tax relief on the actual cost of the tools or clothes you bought, you can claim a flat rate annual deduction to allow for that spend. You can’t have both though. It’s either what you actually spent, or the flat rate deduction.

Here’s the table of industries, occupations and their annual deductions.

“Ordinary” clothing: “everyday wardrobe”.

But there’s no tax relief available for “ordinary clothing” that can be worn for work or elsewhere, if that clothing is part of your “everyday wardrobe”.

So if you buy a pair of pyjamas, and wear them when you’re working from home but also when you’re in bed at night, you can’t claim tax relief.

That also holds true for more “conventional” work clothing. There was a headline case where a computer engineer, required to wear a suit and tie for work, tried to claim tax relief on the cost of that suit and tie - and wasn’t allowed to.

The computer engineer, Mr Hillyer, could have worn that suit and tie elsewhere, e.g. to go shopping at Tesco, or to go to the theatre with his wife, or to a Rotary dinner, etc.

HMRC say that “if the clothing might suitably be worn as part of a hypothetical person’s ‘everyday’ wardrobe”, no tax relief is available.

Where the “everyday wardrobe” does not apply: actors and other entertainers

Actors and other entertainers often have to buy costumes for a part. In fact we've just had a support query from one of our users who's a Michael Jackson impersonator. He wanted to know if he could claim tax relief on his outfits.

The answer is yes.

Tax relief is available on those costumes, even if they could afterwards be worn as ordinary daytime clothing (which you'd have to assume the Michael Jackson costumes would not be - we didn't ask).

HMRC make this clear and give an example of a self-employed television interviewer who may claim for the cost of his lounge suit worn on TV, because that’s part of his “costume”, while the architect he’s interviewing, who’s wearing an identical suit, couldn’t claim tax relief on the cost of his suit because it’s part of his “everyday wardrobe”!

So like pretty well everything else connected with tax;

  • it’s not straightforward
  • this article can't replace professional advice relating to your own circumstances
  • and if in doubt, ask!


Disclaimer: The content included in this blog post is based on our understanding of tax law at the time of publication. It may be subject to change and may not be applicable to your circumstances, so should not be relied upon. You are responsible for complying with tax law and should seek independent advice if you require further information about the content included in this blog post. If you don't have an accountant, take a look at our directory to find a FreeAgent Practice Partner based in your local area.

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