Ann Mallalieu was a practising barrister, and was required to wear clothes in court which satisfied the Bar Council’s requirements.
Her claim for a deduction for the amount spent on court clothes was denied because the expenditure on clothes was not wholly and exclusively for work purposes.
The case was heard in the House of Lords. Lord Brightman gave the following judgement:
‘Of course, the taxpayer thought only of the requirements of her profession when she first bought (as a capital expense) her wardrobe of subdued clothing and, no doubt, as and when she replaced items or sent them to the launderers or the cleaners she would, if asked, have repeated that she was maintaining her wardrobe because of those requirements. It is the natural way that anyone incurring such expenditure would think and speak. But she needed clothes to travel to work and clothes to wear at work, and I think it is inescapable that one object, though not a conscious motive, was the provision of the clothing that she needed as a human being. I reject the notion that the object of a taxpayer is inevitably limited to the particular conscious motive in mind at the moment of expenditure. Of course, the motive of which the taxpayer is conscious is of a vital significance, but it is not inevitably the only object which the Commissioners are entitled to find to exist. In my opinion the Commissioners were not only entitled to reach the conclusion that the taxpayer’s object was both to serve the purposes of her profession and also to serve her personal purposes, but I myself would have found it impossible to reach any other conclusion.’
HMRC’s view, supported by case law, is that most clothing is not bought ‘wholly and exclusively’ for the purpose of the business, as clothes must be worn in any case to provide warmth and decency.
Therefore, the cost of everyday clothing and smart clothing is not allowable.
Protective or specialist clothing bought for work is allowable. Examples would be helmets, protective boots, overalls, high visibility clothing, branded clothing, specialist sports clothing or shoes, or performers’ costumes.