Self Employed Clothing

I am a freelance management consultant operating as a self employed sole trader. I wear suits for my client meetings and don’t wear them outside of my work at all – they are only used for my business and I wouldn’t have bought them otherwise. Can I therefore claim these self employed clothing costs as a business expense?

Self-Employed clothing expenses

Unfortunately a suit purchased (even wholly for work) would not be an allowable expense for tax purposes.

HMRC are very specific in what they consider allowable forms of clothing for tax purposes, and specifically disallow items that could be deemed to be ‘ordinary clothing’.

It has been considered via case law that most items of clothing are part of an everyday wardrobe and, as in the case of the suit, can be worn at other times other than for work and therefore offer an ‘intrinsic duality of purpose’. It is irrelevant whether the suit is therefore worn outside of work or not.

There are number of types of self employed clothing that HMRC distinguish from everyday clothing that can be claimed as an allowable business expense for tax purposes. These tend to fall into three specific categories:

Uniforms

A tax deduction is allowed where an item of clothing is purchased as part of a uniform. Uniforms are defined by HMRC as items of clothing that are easily recognisable from everyday clothing and must be worn to perform that particular duty. For example a nurses or police uniform would be an allowable tax deduction.

Protective clothing

The costs of protective clothing can be claimed as a business expense. These are garments worn as a physical necessity due to the nature of the line of work. Typical examples of protective clothing are hard-hats, protective boots and overalls.

Costumes for actors and entertainers

Actors and entertainers are allowed deductions for items purchased for specific roles. For example an actor appearing in a period drama set in the 1800’s would be allowed a deduction for items of clothing purchased specifically for this role.

Any other garments that could be considered as being ‘everyday clothing’ would not be considered allowable.

There are many grey areas in regard to self employed clothing and two people wearing an identical evening suit at the same function, where one is a waiter and the other is an attendee, are likely to have differing tax treatments.