When dressing for success, taxman says you're on your own

National Post

2007-02-17


When you've invested big bucks in your wardrobe so that you can look your
best in front of clients and business associates, is there any tax relief for
the costs associated with such business attire? What about the weekly
dry-cleaning bill?

Not surprisingly, the Canada Revenue Agency's general opinion is that "while
custom demands certain types of clothing be worn in performing certain duties,
the expenses incurred in purchasing said items are personal living expenses that
are not deductible under the provisions of the Income Tax Act."

As for dry cleaning, here's what the taxman has to say: "It follows that if
the expenditure for the purchase of such clothing is not deductible, the
dry-cleaning expenses would not be deductible." Not that taxpayers haven't
tried.

One such case was the 2003 Tax Court of Canada decision involving Christa
Ilsa Weber, a consultant. Under the "office expenses" section of her tax return,
she claimed more than $12,600 worth of business clothing as well dry-cleaning
expenses.

Ms. Weber expressed her belief that the purchase of such clothing was
necessary to her professional image and to getting and keeping clients: "A
business suit presents a corporate image of trust, security and stability,
particularly important for the banking industry," which, she testified, was her
biggest client.

Ms. Weber also added that such expenditures were necessary to "dress to hide
my weight" in order to create an appropriate first impression.

She advanced similar arguments to justify other so-called office expenses,
including haircuts and clothing repair.

The judge disagreed and concluded that the items of clothing at issue were
personal wear and not solely necessary for her business.

On the other hand, when it comes to uniforms, the CRA is more lenient. It
will not generally assess a taxable employment benefit to an employee who is
provided with a uniform that must be worn on the job. Similarly, if the employer
pays for, or reimburses its employees for the cost of laundering or dry cleaning
those uniforms, this will not constitute a taxable employment benefit. - Jamie
Golombek, CA, CPA, CFP, CLU, TEP is the vice-president, taxation and estate
planning, at AIM Trimark Investments in Toronto.

jamie.golombek@aimtrimark.com