Do we get tax breaks when we buy scrubs for our job?

Do we get tax breaks when we buy scrubs for our job?

By Josephine Reid

Depending on where we work or our specialty, health care professionals may be required to wear certain types of clothing and medical scrubs.

Often the requirement for certain clothing has an infection control or hygienic purpose or is designed so that specific professionals can be easily recognized. Regardless of the case, medical personnel will often purchase these items without reimbursement.

At first, glance, seeing as though nurses and more are required to wear specific clothing and medical scrubs, most would expect the purchase to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, this logic does not gel with the IRS as a recent tax court case involving an airline stewardess illustrated (Mary A. Scott v. Commissioner., U.S. Tax Court, T.C. Summary Opinion 2010-47, Apr. 15, 2010).

In the court case, Ms. Scott was required to wear a uniform provided by her airline, and as a compliment to the uniform, wear black shoes and hosiery. Ms. Scott deducted the shoes and hosiery on her tax return assuming that since she did not normally wear these items outside of work, they would be allowed as a deduction. The Tax Court disagreed.

Expenses for uniforms and related items are deductible only if the clothing is of a type specifically required as a condition of employment, is not adaptable to general use as ordinary clothing, and is not worn as ordinary clothing. The fact that an individual would not wear the clothing in their normal fashion repertoire does not modify the regulations. Since the shoes and hosiery were adaptable to everyday wear, her claim was not allowed.

In many venues, medical professionals are required to wear polo shirts, khaki pants, sneakers and other “uniforms” that have a marketing purpose. Similar to Ms. Scott’s black shoes and hosiery, since these items could be worn as everyday wear, they would not be deductible. A company logo on a polo shirt may support the deduction, but this has not to our knowledge been tested in court.

Items like medical scrubs, lab coats, specialty shoes adapted for the work environment and similar items are all deductible under the regulations. There are deductions available for your medical scrubs. There is an option of deducting items necessary to perform the job such as scrubs, shoes, or specific equipment. The IRS states that “work clothes and uniforms” are eligible for deduction “if required and not suitable for everyday use” (source). Please note that you would not be eligible for tax deductions on a nursing uniform or scrubs if your employer paid you back for these items.

For instance, if you are filing your taxes online, you would go under the 'job expenses' category to include the expenses of medical scrubs. You can also include the cost of periodic cleanings.

In conclusion, items designed specifically for work such as lab coats and scrubs are tax deductible but accessories such as stockings, socks are not eligible.

I'm Josephine Reid and I work at headquarters in Los Angeles. I have a B.S. in Retail Merchandising and Business from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I like to keep a beautiful balance of a creativity and business mindset.