How to Deduct Personal Appearance Expenses

By Cameron McCool on April 4, 2018

Heads up: this article is only relevant for U.S. businesses.

It might surprise you to learn that cosmetic surgery, in some instances, is an IRS-approved tax deduction. Don’t get too excited, though. Costs related to maintaining and changing your personal appearance are only tax deductible in certain circumstances.

Clothing

Work clothing is a commonly rejected tax deduction. In order for clothes to qualify as a tax deduction, the attire needs to be in line with industry standards, and it needs to be essential in order to run your business. The basic rule of this deduction is that if the uniform or clothing could be worn outside of work, then you shouldn’t deduct it. This can be a grey area, but here are some clothing expenses that can be deducted under the right circumstances:

  • Protective clothing
  • Uniforms
  • Costumes

A new suit or dress wouldn’t be tax deductible because you could wear the attire outside of work.

Is dry cleaning tax deductible?

The cost of dry cleaning is tax deductible as long as the clothes are deductible too (only used for work).

Cosmetic surgery

Claiming the cost of cosmetic surgery as a tax deduction is almost always a no-go, but it has been done in extremely specific circumstances.

For example, an exotic dancer was able to claim the cost of breast augmentation on the grounds that her surgery was a requirement for employment (the surgery made her more successful in her profession), and that the surgery was unsuitable for day-to-day use (the augmentation was such that she was going to have her breasts reduced once her stage career was over).

The same line of thinking would apply to botox too. Generally, it would not be tax deductible (unless you could prove it was for work and didn’t also help your personal life, which is unlikely).

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Body enhancement

The IRS doesn’t allow anyone to deduct the cost of simply staying healthy, but they will allow certain professionals to deduct expenses related to their personal appearance.

For instance, bodybuilders can deduct the cost of body oils and other products that they use to improve the appearance of their skin. Professional athletes can deduct the cost of sports coaching or training for events and competitions. However, athletes generally can’t deduct the cost of dietary or nutritional supplements, because the benefits are personal as well as professional.

Makeup

The rules surrounding makeup as a tax deduction are strict. Similar to the clothing deduction, you can write off makeup used for stage or photo shoots, but not if you wear the same makeup outside of work. Any makeup purchases that are for photo shoots or shows should be purchased from professional suppliers (rather than the drugstore) if you plan to claim the cost.

Hair care and haircuts

Similar to makeup costs, hair care expenses only qualify as a tax deduction when they are specifically for work-related photo shoots or shows.

If you order your products from a professional supplier and only use them for performances or shoot, then you can claim the deduction. However, a haircut wouldn’t be deductible because you’ll take the new 'do with you outside of work.

Salon expenses

By now you get the idea. Salon expenses can only be deducted if it’s strictly for work. You can’t get a mani-pedi and claim it’s to help you do better at the office.


This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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