The New York Times revealed information from tax documents regarding President Trump that he claimed a deduction of $70,000.00 for the cost of his haircuts and hair styling while he was working on his television show The Apprentice. Certainly, a celebrity hosting a major network TV show should be able to claim as a necessary and ordinary expense the cost of looking presentable for television, right? Will the Internal Revenue Service accept these hairstyling deductions as a business expense for celebrities appearing in mass media? According to prevailing case law, the answer is no.
As a general rule, “no deduction shall be allowed for personal, living, or family expenses.” 26 U.S.C. 262(a). However, “[t]here shall be allowed as a deduction all the ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business.” The performance of services as an employee constitutes a trade or business. Primuth v. Commissioner, 54 T.C. 374, 377 (1970). 26 U.S.C. 162(a). Whether an expenditure is an ordinary and necessary business expense rather than a personal expense is a question of fact, and it must be shown that the taxpayer’s business was benefited or intended to be benefited from the expense. Hynes v. Commissioner, 74 T.C. 1266, 1289 (1980).
In Hamper v. Commissioner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2011-17 (Feb. 25. 2011), television news anchor Anietra Hamper deducted the cost of the clothing and grooming expenses on her income taxes while working at WCMH-TV (Channel 4) and WBNS-TV (Channel 10) in Columbus. Tax professionals told her it was acceptable, and she kept meticulous receipts and business records. Despite providing amply documentation, the IRS disagreed that these were legitimate business expenses and audited her 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 tax returns. She protested and took her case to the U.S. Tax Court, but the judge ruled against her and assessed $16,492 in back taxes and a penalty of $3,298. Regarding business clothing, the court found as follows:
- “Although a business wardrobe is a necessary condition of employment, the cost of the wardrobe has generally been considered a nondeductible personal expense pursuant to [26 U.S.C.] 262. The general rule is that where business clothes are suitable for general wear, a deduction for them is not allowable. Such costs are not deductible even when it has been shown that the particular clothes would not have been purchased but for the employment. There are recognized exceptions to the general rule where, for example, the clothing was useful only in the business environment in which the taxpayer worked. The rules for determining whether the cost of clothing is deductible as an ordinary and necessary business expense are: (1) The clothing is required or essential in the taxpayer’s employment; (2) the clothing is not suitable for general or personal wear; and (3) the clothing is not so worn. When the cost of acquiring clothing is deductible, then the cost of maintaining such clothing is likewise deductible as an ordinary and necessary business expense.” [Internal Citations Omitted] Slip op. at 7-8.
- “[P]etitioner does not satisfy the requirement that her clothing not be suitable for everyday personal wear. Although she is required to purchase conservative business attire, it is not of a fashion that is outrageous or otherwise unsuitable for everyday personal wear. Given the nature of her expenditures, it is evident that petitioner’s clothing is in fact suitable for everyday wear, even if it is not so worn. Consequently, the Court upholds respondent’s determination that petitioner is not entitled to deduct expenses related to clothing, shoes, and accessory costs, as these are inherently personal expenses. Additionally, because the costs associated with the purchase of clothing are a nondeductible personal expense, costs for the maintenance of the clothing such as dry cleaning costs are also nondeductible personal expenses.” Slip op. at 10.
The same logic also applied to Ms. Hamper’s personal grooming:
- “Petitioner also obtained regular haircuts and manicures. Other maintenance expenditures included teeth whitening and skin care product purchases. Petitioner’s expenditures for manicures, grooming, teeth whitening, and skin care are inherently personal expenditures. Although these expenses may be related to her job, expenses that are inherently personal are nondeductible personal expenses… [T]he fact that petitioner’s employment contract with the station required her to maintain a neat appearance does not elevate these personal expenses to a deductible business expense.” Slip op. at 11-12.
In President Trump’s case, the $70,000.00 hair styling expenses were related to his TV appearances on “The Apprentice”, similar to Ms. Hamper’s career. However, IRS Publication 529 makes clear that “[y]ou can’t deduct expenses of radio and TV appearances to increase your personal prestige or establish your professional reputation.” These expenses will have a difficult time surviving IRS scrutiny.
If you are considering business taxes deductions for work clothing or personal grooming, you should check with a tax professional to see whether this deduction is permissible under the rules. Having the wrong information can cost you thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties. If you have any questions about federal taxation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.