From time to time we get asked "Can I claim tax back for my work clothes?" The answer is "Maybe!"
You can't claim for the initial cost of buying work clothing. This has been considered by the Courts on many occasions who have ruled that the cost of work clothing is not incurred wholly and exclusively in the performance' of the taxpayer's duties. In general that means you will not be able to claim a clothing allowance for the cost of upkeep, replacement and repair of ordinary clothing, even if you only wear it for work.
If however you have to wear a uniform or specific protective clothing such as safety boots, for work and are required to maintain that uniform at your own expense, you are likely to be entitled to a uniform tax allowance. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a fireman or a paramedic to qualify for this tax rebate –branded polo-shirts, smocks, overalls and high visibility clothing all count!
There are several criteria that must be met if you are going to be eligible for a uniform related rebate:
- You must wear a distinct uniform that identifies you as an employee in a specific role. This includes more traditional uniforms, such as police and nurse uniforms, as well as the contemporary logo bearing style of uniform, such as a company branded t-shirt. Your uniform may not have a logo, but if you only use it for work it can still count.
- Your employer insists that you wear the uniform to work.
- You have to purchase, repair, replace or clean you uniform yourself. If your employer makes provisions to clean your uniform at their expense, you will not qualify.
- You must have paid income tax during the year in which you are claiming.
Not everyone who wears a uniform is eligible. Members of the Armed Forces’ tax codes include an allowance for maintenance of their uniform and some police forces claim tax relief already.
So how does all this work in practice? HMRC introduced a flat rate of £60 to act as a standard annual benchmark for the cost of keeping your uniform clean. You are then entitled to tax relief from this amount. This equates to a £12 rebate for basic-rate taxpayers and £24 for those paying higher rate tax. It’s also worth noting that certain professions have a higher flat rate which may result in a larger refund. The higher rates vary and apply where uniforms may require specialist cleaning services or particularly frequent levels of cleaning, such as paramedics and nurses.
Whilst these saving may seem modest, when you consider that claims can be made for the past four years and the current tax year, most people stand to receive a rebate of at least £60. Alternatively, you can make a claim for exactly what you have spent however you will need to keep all receipts and proof of payment.
How do you claim?
If you already file a self-assessment return you should claim on it. If not you will need to complete a form P87