Are work clothes tax-deductible for self-employed?

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Something often confused about being an allowable business expense on the self-employed allowable expenses list is clothes.

So what clothes can you claim for? And what can’t you?

That’s what we’ll look at now.

Let’s get started.

Self-Employed clothing allowance: What HMRC Says

The answer, according to HMRC, is quite simple:

When it comes to the self-employed clothing allowance, you can claim business expenses for:

  • Uniforms
  • Protective clothing
  • Costumes

And that’s it. 

They make it very clear you cannot claim for regular, everyday clothing. Whether you wear it for work or not makes no difference.

Sounds simple? It can get a bit confusing, so we’ve thought of five old-school style maths questions to test your knowledge.

So, to claim or not to claim? That is the question.

Self-Employed Clothing Allowance: Test Your Knowledge

Matt, a freelance graphic designer

Matt works from home some days, out of coffee shops and occasionally hot desks at a local co-working spot. He needs to dress the part when he meets clients, as most of them work in fashion and music.

His usual wardrobe consists of polo tops, jeans, hoodies, t-shirts, and a smart pair of boots or trainers.

Matt needs some new shirts. Can he claim those costs as an allowable business expense?

Yes! Because he’s wearing those clothes to work every day.

No! Because the kind of clothes he is wearing are classed as everyday clothing.

Kelsey, a tree surgeon

Kelsey works 30-feet up pine trees most days. You’re more likely to see her with a chainsaw in her hand than without one. 

It’s dangerous work, so she wears boots, overalls, and a helmet.

Kelsey needs heavy-duty gloves to wear to work during the winter. Can she claim those costs as an allowable business expense?

Yes! Because they’re classed as protective clothing.

No! Because she could also wear them for other activities in winter.

Niall, a baker

Niall has his own baking business which he runs out of his family kitchen. He’s got his eyes on new business premises in the future but doesn’t have the cash to afford it yet.

It’s messy work, so he wears cheap t-shirts, trousers, and a pair of Crocs.

Niall’s sick of getting food all over his clothes, so he needs to buy an apron. Can he claim this as an allowable business expense?

Yes! Because it’s classed as protective clothing.

No! It’s not protecting him from anything other than flour so it doesn’t count.

Aanya, a private maths tutor

Aanya is a self-employed maths tutor and has students all over the North East. She teaches children aged between five and fifteen. 

To look professional, she wears a suit and smart shoes for work.

Aanya shrunk her suits in the wash and needs to replace them. Can she claim these as an allowable business expense?

Yes! Because it’s a work uniform.

No! A suit is classed as everyday clothing.

Barry, an electrician

Barry’s been a self-employed electrician for fifteen years.

He wears a polo-shirt, jumper, and pair of cargo trousers for work. He needs specialist toe-capped boots, which he claims as an allowable business expense under the protective clothing clause.

Barry’s noticed the outfits he usually wears for work are faded and so he needs to replace them. He likes his logo on everything he wears for work for promotion, so he calls the company who makes them. Can he claim his polo shirt, jumper, and trousers are allowable business expenses?

Yes! His clothes are branded so they’re classed as his uniform.

No! He could wear a polo shirt, jumper, and cargo trousers as part of his everyday clothing.

Self-Employed Clothing Allowance: The Answers

Matt’s Shirts

The answer is no. 

But this is where it gets tricky. You see, if Matty’s brand colour (logo etc) is, say, bright yellow and he purchases shirts that are that colour, he could say they are a work uniform. Only the shirts would be tax-deductible unless he wore yellow jeans and shoes too.

Kelsey’s Gloves

The answer is yes.

Kelsey’s main reason for buying the gloves is to use them every day at work to protect herself from injury. If she were to wear them on one-off occasions like a winter walk or doing her home gardening, this would be acceptable personal use.

Niall’s Apron

The answer is yes.

However, it may fall into a bit of a grey area. To be safe, Niall could opt for a branded apron that clearly displays his company logo. That way, he can claim it’s both uniform and protective clothing.

Aanya’s Suit

The answer is no.

Despite wearing the suits for work, Aanya could not claim the clothes as an allowable business expense because HMRC would argue they are classed as everyday clothing.

If Aanya wanted to purchase clothes for work that would be classed as a uniform, it would have to have some kind of branding on them.

Barry’s Work Clothes

The answer is yes.

Although a polo shirt, jumper, and cargo pants would class as everyday clothes, because Barry has his logo printed on them, they’re classed as uniform.

How Did You Do?

If you got 5/5, you’re a clothing allowance pro! Good job. But how will you fare with our Allowable Business Expense quiz? Warning: it’s much harder than the above.

If you got any less than top marks, download our FREE Pay Less Tax Guide to make sure you’re not paying too much tax.