Australia markets open in 5 hours 1 minute

    -27.70 (-0.35%)

    -0.0020 (-0.30%)
  • ASX 200

    -25.40 (-0.33%)
  • OIL

    -0.13 (-0.17%)
  • GOLD

    +30.40 (+1.31%)
  • Bitcoin AUD

    +655.12 (+0.65%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    -34.80 (-2.45%)

Here's how you can claim your work clothing at tax time

Do you need to wear a suit to work? Or perhaps you need to wear a uniform emblazoned with your company’s logo? Perhaps you work in a clothes shop and have to come to work wearing clothes bought in that store?

Also read: 5 signs you’re playing it too safe with your money

Whatever the case, you have to conform to your employers dress policy so there might be an expectation that you’ll be treated the same way by the taxman when it comes to claiming tax deductions for your work clothing.

If only it was so simple!

Also read: 4 reasons you’re not successful yet

This year, the ATO has announced a big crackdown on tax deductions for work-related clothing. They claim that more than 6 million people are claiming tax deductions for clothing and laundry, with an unspecified proportion of those claims believed to be bogus. So, with the ATO looking closely at all such claims, now is a good time to consider what you can and can’t claim.


What can I claim?

You can claim a deduction for the cost of buying and cleaning:

    • occupation-specific clothing

    • protective and unique clothing (ie, not everyday wear)

    • clothing that allows the public to easily recognise your occupation – such as the checked trousers a chef wears

    • distinctive uniforms.

    • clothing and footwear that you wear to protect yourself from the risk of illness or injury posed by your job or the environment in which you do your job. To be considered protective, the items must provide a sufficient degree of protection against that risk, and might include:

      • fire-resistant and sun-protection clothing (including sunglasses)

      • hi-vis vests

      • non-slip nurse’s shoes

      • rubber boots for concreters

      • steel-capped boots, gloves, overalls, and heavy-duty shirts and trousers

      • overalls, smocks and aprons you wear to avoid damage or soiling to your ordinary clothes whilst at work.

Also read: How to spot fake Amazon reviews

What can’t I claim?

  • You can’t claim the cost of purchasing or cleaning clothes you bought to wear for work that are not specific to your occupation, such as a bartender’s black trousers and white shirt, or a business suit. Bad news for office workers!

  • If you work in a clothing store, you also can’t claim the cost of clothing you purchased in that store, even if you’re required to wear it to work, since those items of clothing are not specific to your occupation (you could also wear them outside work, on a Saturday night out for instance).

  • Ordinary clothes (such as jeans, shirts, shorts, trousers, socks, closed shoes) are not regarded as protective clothing if they lack protective qualities designed for the risks of your work. To take the example of closed shoes, you may seek to argue that such shoes provide a level of protection for your feet from work-place hazards but unless that protection is something specific, over-and-above a general level of foot protection, you’re not going to be able to claim a deduction.

Work uniforms

Compulsory work uniform

You can generally claim a deduction for the cost of a compulsory work uniform, provided that you bear the cost and aren’t reimbursed by your employer.

This is a set of clothing that identifies you as an employee of an organisation. It is compulsory for you to wear the uniform while you’re at work and there is a strictly enforced policy ensuring that this happens.

Typical occupations where a compulsory uniform is required include police officers, nurses, military personnel, airline staff and supermarket staff.

Also read: Here’s how to make an extra $100,000 on top of your annual income

You may be able to claim a deduction for shoes, socks and stockings where they are an essential part of a distinctive compulsory uniform and where their characteristics (colour, style and type) are specified in your employer’s uniform policy (as is sometimes the case with air stewardesses and nurses for instance).

You may be able to claim for a single item of distinctive clothing, such as a jumper, if it’s compulsory for you to wear it at work.

Non-compulsory work uniform

You can claim for a non-compulsory uniform provided it is unique and distinctive to the organisation you work for.

Clothing is unique if it has been designed and made only for your employer. Clothing is distinctive if it has your employer’s logo permanently attached and the clothing is not available to the public.

You can’t claim the cost of purchasing or cleaning a plain uniform (for example, a generic white shirt and pair of black trousers, as worn by many wait staff).

Non-compulsory work uniforms must usually have a design registered with AusIndustry in order to be tax deductible.

Shoes, socks and stockings can never form part of a non-compulsory work uniform, and neither can a single item such as a jumper.

Cleaning of work clothing

You can claim the costs of washing, drying and ironing eligible work clothes, or having them dry-cleaned.

If the total amount of your laundry expenses are $150 or less and your total work-related expenses are $300 or less, you don’t need to provide written evidence for your laundry expenses. Instead, for washing, drying and ironing you do yourself, the ATO allows you to use the following amounts to work out your laundry claim:

    • $1 per load – this includes washing, drying and ironing – if the load is made up only of work-related clothing, and

    • 50 cents per load if other laundry items are included.

Mark Chapman is the Director of Tax Communications at H&R Block.