It’s hard to hang a tax break on a thong

Repeat after me: Just Because You Wear It For Business Doesn’t Make It Deductible

I want my small business clients to write off every expense they’re entitled to. Supplies, business travels, meals, conferences–we take everything that’s allowed.

I get very skeptical, though, when they start telling me how much they had to spend on business-related clothes. The reason: IRS has been steadfast, and rung up lots of Tax Court wins, in disallowing deductions for wardrobe and makeup.

IRS picked up another win in 2011, nailing former Columbus, Ohio TV anchor Anietra Hamper for almost $20,000 in back taxes and penalties, as the New York Daily News reported in its usual understated manner.

Hamper saved receipts. She kept the clothes she wore on-air in a separate room in her house. None of it mattered. Because the clothes (and other items such as contact lenses, makeup, and teeth whitening) were useful in daily life, they weren’t deductible. Trying to also take deductions for such items as gym fees, bedding, jewelry, and thong underwear probably didn’t help her case.

Most of us can wear our business clothes in social circumstances, so we don’t get a writeoff. On the other hand, if I ever have Steven Tyler as a client, I guarantee you that we’ll deduct the boas he wears on-stage. Maybe some of his plastic surgery also–I mean, that can’t have any useful social benefit, can it?