The average tax deduction that nurses claim for the cost of uniforms will not always provide you with an estimate of what your own deduction is. This is because there are many factors that affect the deduction amount nurses can claim, such as your individual adjusted gross income, the cost of each uniform and your decision on whether to itemize.
Work Uniform Rules
The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of purchasing and maintaining work clothes and uniforms that an employer requires. However, for you to be able to claim the deduction, the uniform must be unsuitable for wear outside of work. If you purchase nursing uniforms, you are eligible for the deduction since your uniform is not the type of clothing people wear when not at work. In addition to the purchase price of each uniform, you can also include the cost of periodic cleanings. Satisfying the deduction requirements, however, is just the first step to saving on your taxes.
2 Percent Limitation
The IRS classifies any deductible nurse uniform cost you incur as a miscellaneous expense subject to a 2 percent AGI limitation. This means that when you add up all of your miscellaneous expenses, including the uniform expenses, only the amount that exceeds 2 percent of your AGI is deductible. For example, if your AGI is $20,000, the 2 percent limitation is $400. This means that you don’t take a deduction for the first $400 of your miscellaneous expenses, but all amounts above the $400 are fully deductible. However, before you even get to this calculation, you need to evaluate whether itemizing your deductions will save you more in tax.
Electing to Itemize
The only way to claim a deduction for nurse uniform expenses is as an itemized deduction. To itemize, you must elect to do so, which requires you to forgo the standard deduction. The standard deduction is a fixed amount that you can deduct without reporting any specific expenses; it is different for each of the filing statuses. For example, if you use the head of household status on your 2011 tax return, you can claim a deduction of $8,500. Therefore, when evaluating whether to itemize and claim a uniform deduction, you need to calculate your total itemized deductions and compare that amount to the standard deduction. You will save more tax by choosing the larger of the two. Also keep in mind that before making the comparison, you should apply all AGI limitations, such as the 2 percent limitation on your work uniforms.
Reporting Nurse Uniforms
If you decide to itemize and claim your nurse uniform deduction, you have no choice but to report it on a Schedule A attachment with all other expenses you are deducting. Making the election to itemize also limits your choice of income tax forms to file return on. Once you decide to itemize, you can only use the long version of Form 1040. Preparing your tax return on a 1040-EZ or 1040-A is no longer an option.