How to Claim Clothing Costs Against Your Tax Return

Posted on: 24 August 2018

Most people are aware that they can itemise some deductions on their tax return in order to reduce their overall liability. Some of these deductions are fairly obvious, but many of them are rather obscure and are often hidden behind lines of tax code. Do you always err on the side of caution when you're trying to claim back from the government, as you'd prefer to avoid any questions, or do you seek out any potential advantage as you try to reduce your exposure? If you shrink away from itemising because you are confused, you may not claim some important allowances related to clothing. What do you need to know in order to clarify your approach?

To Claim—or Not to Claim?

Clothing can be a significant line item on any household budget. Often, you will be required to buy these garments so that you can perform your duties and earn your salary, and it would be 'nice' to claim this amount back. You do have to be careful, however, as the rules can be quite complex.

Much will depend on whether you were formally required to buy certain types of clothes for your job. The definition is important here, as if the instruction is rather generic, you won't be able to itemise.

Generic or Branded

As an example, if your supervisor told you that you needed to wear black trousers and a white shirt for a bartending position, this is treated as generic by the ATO and is not allowable. However, if the restaurant in question was highly themed and the uniform was heavily branded, then you may have to get those clothes from a special retailer or a specific, named source. Usually, this will be allowable because it is distinctive, and you may include them on your tax return.

Hazardous Environment

Different rules apply if you work in a hazardous or restricted environment, where you must have protective clothing in order to keep you safe. This is not optional and is certainly specific and, as a consequence, is permitted by the authority.

Cleaning Costs

Once you have bought this clothing you will, of course, be required to keep it clean, and this may involve dry cleaning or other specialised costs. These expenses may also be claimable to an extent, although the ATO does have a threshold for you to consider. It's best to check the situation before you lay out too much money so that you always know where you are.

Asking Questions

You may not have the time to wade through a stack of tax code to figure out your position. In this case it is best to engage the services of an accountant to make sure that you don't step over the line.