I have to purchase work tools and uniforms for my job. Are tools and work clothes tax deductible?

Determining if work tools and uniforms as well as works clothes are tax deductible depends on a couple of factors.

  • In regard to uniforms, you can deduct the cost of the uniforms and their upkeep (dry cleaning) if both of the following apply:
  • Your job requires that you wear special clothing such as a uniform.
  • The clothes are not suitable for everyday wear. For example, a uniform with a company logo isn’t suitable for everyday wear, so it would qualify as a deduction.

Work clothes are tax deductible if your employer requires you to wear them everyday but they cannot be worn as everyday wear, such as a uniform. However, if your employer requires you to wear suits — which can be worn as everyday wear — you cannot deduct their cost even if you never wear the suits outside of work.

You can fully deduct small tools with a useful life of less than one year. Deduct them the year you buy them.

However, if the tools have a useful life of more than one year, you must depreciate them. You can usually depreciate tools over a seven-year recovery period or use the Section 179 expense deduction. Under Section 179, you can expense the full cost of a tool the year you place it in service. The deduction is limited to the amount of your self-employment income.

You can deduct the cost of the tools as an unreimbursed employee expense on Schedule A if both of these apply:

  • You work for an employer, rather than being self-employed.
  • You're required to have the tools for your trade.

You're also subject to the recovery-period rules and Section 179 rules.

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