Employees may be able to get tax relief if they – and not their employer – spend money on any tools or specialist clothing they need to be able to do your job. Employees can go back several years to get the relief – the time you’ve got depends on whether you’ve previously sent in a Self Assessment tax return.
As a general rule an employee can’t get tax relief for the cost of clothing they wear to work – but there are some exceptions. For example, if you work in a sector like the building trade or the metal working industry you’ll have to wear protective clothing like:
If you must pay for the cost of repairing, cleaning or replacing this type of specialist clothing yourself and your employer doesn’t reimburse you, then you are entitled to tax relief. However, you cannot claim for the initial cost of buying this clothing.
EIM32712 sets out some flat rate expenses that can be claimed and EIM32485 allows £60 per year for laundry.
If you are an employee who wants to claim the laundry allowance you should send HMRC a letter as follows:
Re: Uniform Tax Rebate
I have been employed at……… since….. My job title is ……. and I wear a company uniform.
I am obliged to launder the uniform, which is supplied to me by the company. I therefor wish to claim any payment to cover the laundry costs.
The uniform provided is not suitable to be worn outside of the work environment due to having the company logo on it.
I would like to receive the rebate in the form of a cheque….
Self Employed workers have tried to claim for clothes but whilst HMRC have allowed claims for ‘Uniforms’ and ‘Costumes’ they have rejected claims for everyday clothes.
BIM37910 explains to HMRC Inspectors…
You should disallow expenditure on ordinary clothing worn by a trader during the course of their trade. This remains so even where particular standards of dress are required by, for example, the rules of a professional body.
The case of Mallalieu v Drummond  57 TC 330 (which is discussed in detail below) established that no deduction is available from trading profits for the costs of clothing which forms part of an ‘everyday’ wardrobe. This remains so even where the taxpayer can show that they only wear such clothing in the course of their profession. It is irrelevant that the person chooses not to wear the clothing in question on non-business occasions, the only question is whether the clothing might suitably be worn as part of a hypothetical person’s ‘everyday’ wardrobe.
Most professionals have to keep up appearances but their clothing costs are not allowable (even where they amount to a quasi uniform as in Mallalieu v Drummond).
The cost of clothing that is not part of an ‘everyday’ wardrobe (for example a nurse’s uniform or evening dress (‘tails’) worn by a professional waiter) faces no such bar to deduction.
You should therefore allow a deduction for protective clothing and uniforms.
This was recently tested by Sian Williams who claimed, unsuccessfully…
In her 2004/05 tax return, a newsreader claimed certain deductions from employment income with the BBC for “travel and subsistence costs”, and “other expenses and capital allowances”.
Of these, the following were in dispute:
- Professional hairdo and colouring £975
- Professional clothing for studio £3,231
- Laundry of professional clothes £325
She also claimed that as a taxpayer she had the right to be treated fairly, HMRC should offer up details of the amounts which had been agreed as allowable expenses for other news readers and entertainers.
See articles by Ross Martin and the Guardian