How to Deduct Personal Appearance Expenses

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. For clothes to qualify as a tax deduction, the attire needs to be in line with industry standards, and it needs to be essential to run your business. The basic rule of this deduction is that if you can wear the uniform or clothing 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).

How Bench can help

Surprised at the kinds of expenses that are tax-deductible? Personal appearance expenses are just one of many unexpected deductible costs that can reduce your tax bill. But with messy or incomplete financials, you can miss these tax saving expenses and end up with a bigger bill than necessary.

Enter Bench, America’s largest bookkeeping service. With a Bench subscription, your team of bookkeepers imports every transaction from your bank, credit cards, and merchant processors, accurately categorizing each and reviewing for hidden tax deductions. We provide you with complete and up-to-date bookkeeping, guaranteeing that you won’t miss a single opportunity to save.

Want to talk taxes with a professional? With a premium subscription, you get access to unlimited, on-demand consultations with our in-house tax professionals. They can help you identify deductions, find unexpected opportunities for savings, and ensure you’re paying the smallest possible tax bill. Learn more.

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 photoshoots 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 photoshoots or shows.

If you order your products from a professional supplier and only use them for performances or shoots, 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. Unfortunately, you can’t get a mani-pedi and claim it’s to help you do better at the office.

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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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