Q- My client has recently enquired about the possibility of claiming relief for the expenses of cleaning of clothing that she wears in her role in nightclub security, having heard that there are flat rate expenses that employees are able to claim.
A- Your client is correct in that HMRC have issued guidance, which sets out a flat rate deduction for some industries and occupations for the cost of replacing, repairing and cleaning protective clothing or uniforms. This guidance can be found here and it was updated in July 2018.
For example, the armed forces can claim £100 per year whilst a firefighter can claim £80. Whilst for other employees £60 per year that can be claimed by employees in general where they can meet the statutory test outlined below.
In practice, the cost of clothing is seldom allowable as a deduction from earnings as it rarely meets the strict statutory test at s336 ITEPA 2003. The test requires that the employee is obliged to incur and pay it as a holder of employment and the amount is incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily (‘WEN’) in the performance of the duties of the employment.
It is common for employees to meet part of the above requirement but fail to meet the whole requirement.
This is illustrated in a decision released on 4 June 2018 by the First Tier Tribunal  UKFTT 0291 (TC) in respect of the Higginbottom & Ors. Three individuals who worked in sewers had made a claim for the cleaning costs of their clothes. Their appeal against the original judgement was dismissed by the FTT.
The Treasury has not fixed any amount for relief in relation to drainage and sewerage workers or ground maintenance workers – they are not on the guidance referred to above.
In respect of toiletries, the FTT was not satisfied that such expenses were incurred ‘WEN’ in the performance of the duties of the employment. They were incurred partly for purposes of everyday personal hygiene. The FTT did indicate that a claim for £60 would have been acceptable but the claim for £2,200 was not.
As we can see, the test is particularly tight and in many cases the claim will be denied on the grounds that the clothing provides warmth and decency as well and therefore fails the wholly exclusively and necessarily test.