While many business write-offs are pretty self-explanatory, such as office rent and supplies, others are more confusing. We regularly have clients trying or asking to have clothing, and other related products, written off for business tax purposes. Common expenses we see that people think they are able to write off include hair styling and makeup, skincare products, clothing, boots, designer suits, expensive clothes (must keep up that image!), cowboy hats, a Columbia winter jacket, and even underwear and lingerie. The answer to almost all of these requests is almost always no. No, you cannot write off that cowboy hat from your trip to Calgary. No, your personal lingerie is not a deductible business expense.

So what clothing can be written off for business tax purposes? 

We know you want to look your best while running your business, especially when you’re meeting with clients. Looking good means investing in clothing at the very least, but unfortunately, you can’t claim these costs as an independent contractor and/or business expenses.

The only way you can write off a piece of clothing for work is if you have your logo affixed permanently and in a visible spot. This usually turns the clothing into some type of uniform and thus makes it legitimate. Most companies put their logos on tee shirts, jackets, and hoodies, usually. These items can be bought separately and brought to an embroidery shop to have your logo added. So, while you can’t write off your golf game with a client, you can write off your new polo shirt that’s embroidered with your company logo.

The CRA says,

No deduction shall be made in respect of an outlay or expense except to the extent that it was made or incurred by the taxpayer for the purpose of gaining or producing income from the business or property.

If you supply employees with a uniform, 

Your employee does not receive a taxable benefit if either of the following conditions apply:

  • you supply your employee with a distinctive uniform they have to wear while carrying out the employment duties
  • you provide your employee with protective clothing (including safety footwear and safety glasses) designed to protect them from hazards associated with the employment

The options are more broad and lenient for artists and performers, as it’s more believable that they would have some of these expenses for business use. To be clear, we’re referring to visual artists and performing artists such as musicians, actors, or other performers.

These self-employed artists are considered to be operating a business, provided there is a reasonable expectation of profit, so they are entitled to deduct reasonable expenses incurred in connection with earning income from that business. Some artists pay costume and clothing service providers for special days, including music video shoots, and filming for Tick-Tok and Youtube.

Self-employed artists’ expenses incurred to earn professional income are deductible, to the extent that they are reasonable in the circumstances. Examples of such expenses are: 

  • The cost of makeup and hair styling required for public appearances 
  • The cost of having publicity photographs made and sent 
  • Insurance premiums on musical instruments and equipment
  • Capital cost allowance on instruments, sheet music, scores, scripts, transcriptions, arrangement and equipment;
  • The cost of music, acting or other lessons incurred for a particular role or part or for the general self-improvement in the individual artist’s field;
  • The cost of repairs, alterations, and cleaning of clothes for the purpose of their use in self-employment
  • Travel expenses related to an engagement (including an audition) in the following situations;
  • The engagement is out of town,
  • A large instrument or equipment must be carried to the engagement,
  • Dress clothes must be worn from a residence to the place of the engagement, or
  • One engagement follows another so closely that a car or taxi is the only means by which the engagement can be fulfilled.

For example, Sharleen is a self-employed Opera singer. She works on a contract-by-contract basis in cities near and far. Recently, Sharleen travelled to Toronto for an important audition and a performance. She met with her local clothing stylist, her makeup artist and her hairstylist. After she was done getting ready, she had freshly printed glossy headshots ready to pass out waiting at her hotel. After the audition, Sharleen jumped into a cab to take her to the performance location for that evening’s show.  Later, she deducted her audition outfit, her makeup application, her hairstyle, her headshots, her hotel room and her cab ride. She also deducted the voice coach that trained her.

Meanwhile, Gustav is one of the contracted self-employed trombonists in that same Opera’s orchestra. That day he picked up his freshly dry-cleaned performance outfit and travelled from one performance across town to the other. He expensed his dry cleaning and the large cab that could accommodate him and his bass trombone.

We hope this article has answered all of your burning questions in regards to whether you can write off clothing for business purposes. The only way you can write off a piece of clothing for work is if you have your logo affixed permanently and in a visible spot unless you’re a performing artist. Personal lingerie? No. Cowboy hat? No. Columbia ski jacket? No. Golfing polo shirt with logo? Sure. Opera singer audition outfit? Ok. Trombonist’s cab ride? No problem.