People have developed a new appreciation for nurses in the pandemic era. Floor nurses, those who serve at intensive care units, emergency room staffers and surgical nurses all work long hours under stressful conditions while attending to the health of their patients. Sometimes the pay is generous and, in other cases, less so.
All of these professionals must come dressed for work. That can mean donning an official uniform or simply wearing scrubs. Either way, many nurses must purchase these clothes with their own funds. Can you write off clothes as a business expense?
Read More: Tax Deductions for Nurses
Can't Nurses Wear Street Clothes?
Older people may remember a time when nurses wore well-starched white dresses with a matching cap and, if going outside, a blue cape. This wardrobe easily identified the wearer with her job (yes, they were almost all women back then).
Over the years, however, the nurses' garments took a more casual turn and today most of them, in doctors' offices and hospitals, wear scrubs. In a health care venue, scrubs offer physical protection from germs and infections since they are composed of anti-microbial materials. In addition, scrubs are simple to wash and maintain.
How Many Sets of Scrubs Are Necessary?
As noted above, scrubs are easy to clean. That is a virtue since they should be changed regularly. The longer they are worn, the more prone to contamination they become. For that reason alone, nursing students are often advised to have three or four sets of scrubs on hand.
Yet, for the workaday nurse, it all boils down to schedule. A typical floor nurse, for example, can work three to four 12-hour shifts in a week so, like the student, will need three to four sets of scrubs. Yet a nurse in a clinic or physician's office may work a more traditional five-day, 40-hour week. In this instance, more scrubs are warranted.
Are Scrubs Expensive?
In truth, scrubs can be simple or stylish. As with other clothing, certain name brands command more money than do the others. Quality always counts, and the fact is that some people outside the health care field find it fashionable to wear scrubs.
A survey of online retailers yields a range of $6 to $45 for just the top alone. Pants, meanwhile, can range from $8 to $36. Multiplied by the number of sets needed, this price tag can add up, particularly for those looking for durable, high-caliber wear.
Can I Deduct Scrubs on My Taxes?
Internal Revenue Service rules governing work clothes and their status in terms of taxable income must be navigated carefully. As a rule, most clothing worn for work does not qualify as a deductible, non-reimbursable expense. Further, since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, not only is office-appropriate garb ineligible, but also most clothing identified with certain jobs and professions, nursing among them.
The result is that the cost of scrubs can not be written off in most instances. Only military personnel, performing artists and a few other categories retain this privilege as employees.
There is, however, one scenario in which a nurse can subtract work clothing expenses from taxable income. Should that nurse perform duties on a freelance basis, paid per diem according to contract, then the price of scrubs can be deducted as a business expense as long as it is both "ordinary and necessary." Entrepreneurs like this might be private duty nurses or nurses who make themselves available to hospitals according to personal availability and institutional need.
Read More: Tax Tips for Nurses
Adam Luehrs is a writer during the day and a voracious reader at night. He focuses mostly on finance writing and has a passion for real estate, credit card deals, and investing.