When claiming tax relief for work wear includes perfume and shoes!

One of the questions many self employed people ask me when I say that I am an accountant is “can I claim a tax deduction for my work clothes?”.

It seems that wives, husbands, friends, accountants and the man at the pub, golf course or corner shop all have differing views on the matter.

What does HMRC say?

So the usual response would be that HMRC say you can claim for


-protective clothing needed for work

-costumes for actors and entertainers

Stringfellows’ exotic dancer

Then along came a Stringfellows’ exotic dancer (funny how that made the headlines last year)! She challenged HMRC and managed to obtain a tax deduction for her sexy outfits, lingerie, stockings, hair and beauty appointments and stiletto heeled shoes. They are akin to an entertainer’s costume really so that’s understandable.

The hair and beauty aspect though has a duality of purpose. She cannot remove the fake tan or hair extensions at the end of a night, so the fact that it makes her look attractive the rest of the time is apparently subordinate to the main purpose of the expenditure. I didn’t expect that!

Does that mean that a hairdresser who needs to pay to upkeep her own hairstyle, as lets face it that is needed for her job, can claim tax relief?

The understanding has always been that if clothes could be worn outside the workplace, such as suits, then they had duality of purpose and could not be claimed. They were needed to provide warmth and decency. This was tested in a case for a barrister’s dark suits.

This case does muddy the waters a little and has made an accountant’s job more difficult. If i wore a suit to work every day, but would never wear it outside work as its not practical when you have a child, why can I not claim that? I know I would be challenged as I don’t fall in to the category of entertainers (although I try my best to be entertaining). Also my clothing provides warmth and decency and the clothing this lady claimed for could not boast the same.

Tax relief for perfume?

The most surprising part was that she was allowed tax relief for her perfume, which she could wear when not working. The tribunal decided that the correct test is not whether she could have worn the perfume outside work but the evidence was that she did not do so. It was bought just for her performances. She didn’t wear it at the weekends as she didn’t want to be reminded of her work. What about if you are a cleaner and wear strong perfume to mask the smell of cleaning liquids and don’t wear it at the weekend as you don’t want to be reminded of toilets and dirty shower cubicles? Can they not claim the perfume as they are not entertainers?

I like this case, not because Miss Daniels could claim for perfume and makeup and eyelash extensions but, because the taxpayer stood her ground and argued her case. By doing so she may have enabled her fellow dancers to claim more than they would have done in the past. For the rest of us non entertainers though it seems a little unfair. Can we stretch the boundaries too?