Hillary’s $12k Jacket Tax Deductible?

Remember the tight 2016 Presidential election? You may also remember Hillary Clinton’s stylish, yet pricey, jacket she wore during her April, 2016, victory speech after she won the New York state primary. You might even remember the mocking, viral Facebook messages about the Giorgio Armani jacket with a price tag of $12,495 that Hillary wore for that speech.
These memories bring some questions to mind. Isn’t wardrobe for a presidential candidate substantially work-related and therefore a tax deductible expense? Therefore, can’t pricey clothing like this be deducted on Hillary’s taxes?

The short answer is “unlikely.” In order to deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes, one must meet two conditions.

One must wear the close as a condition of one’s employment. And, the clothes aren’t suitable for everyday wear outside the work environment.

Generally, the cost of clothing and its upkeep are deductible expenses when the clothing is considered specific to one’s employment. This may be clothing used by firefighters, meat processing employees, fishing boat crew members, health care workers, and law enforcement officers, as well as others. Determination must be made on a case by case basis. Factors might even include the contractual agreements between employees and employers. Allowable deductions are permitted by the IRS on a very narrow, strict basis.

A recent U.S. Tax Court case (Hamper v. Commissioner, T.C. Summary Opinion 2011-17) involved a well-dressed TV anchorwoman. You guessed it! Ms. Hamper deducted the cost of her wardrobe and related expenses.

The anchor deducted about $80,000 worth of clothes between 2005 and 2008. Hamper kept meticulous records, but that wasn’t enough for tax relief. The Tax Court pointed out to Ms. Hamper that the clothes she wore would be eligible clothing only IF they were a condition/requirement of employment AND IF the clothes were not suitable for everyday wear.

In addition, the judge ruled that most of the other items deducted by Hamper were personal expenses, not business. These personal expenses included contact lenses that helped her read the teleprompter, cosmetics, haircuts, manicures, teeth whitening, lounge wear, a robe, sportswear, lingerie (including thong underwear), an Ohio State jersey, jewelry, running shoes, dry cleaning, business gifts, cable TV, gym memberships, Internet access, self-defense classes, and subscriptions to Cosmo, Glamour, Newsweek, and Nickelodeon.

So, the short answer is no. Hillary shouldn’t deduct the expensive jacket. When business clothes are suitable for general wear, there is no allowable tax deduction, even if these particular clothes would not have been purchased except for one’s own employment. Even if you work for a GUCCI® store and are required to wear GUCCI® brand items while working, these clothes could certainly be worn for general use, and, therefore, are not tax deductible.

Hillary may end up donating the jacket to charity and try to deduct its value under the “Gifts to Charity” section of her tax return. But, she should be careful of what value she claims. Deductions for used but over-valued clothing can lead to an IRS audit. That is something nobody wants!

For more information about what expenses may be deductible on your personal tax return, contact a tax professional.