Are Work Boots Tax Deductible For Self-Employed?

Work boots are generally tax-deductible for both self-employed business owners and traditional workers who are required to wear them as part of their job. 

This informational piece will tell you 

  • what specific function a work boot needs to fulfill for it to be claimed as a write-off
  • how to go about securing this deduction
  • and how to minimize your risk of an IRS audit. 

The most important thing to note is that this article is written to inform you about the rules with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the USA. 

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, please do not construct anything in this article as legal or financial advice. Please see a lawyer or accountant if you require formal advice. 

Who can claim tax write off for protective work boots?

Both the self-employed and employed workers can claim a tax deduction for protective work boots provided it meets an essential aspect of your job. 


If you work for someone else, you can claim a pair of work boots, along with any other protective equipment, as a tax deduction if the work boots were mandated for use by your boss. 


If you are self-employed, you can claim the cost of the work boots as a business expense provided you can demonstrate it was essential to the work you were carrying out. 

You will need to provide proof of profession- the IRS is not going to grant a deduction for steel toe boots to a self-employed fishmonger or greengrocer since this is not an essential item for their work.  Check out this article Are Work Boots Considered PPE? if you want to know more.

What type of work boots can you write off as tax deduction?

Tax deductions are conditional on expenses being ordinary in your profession, and necessary for the work you do. 

It should be fairly easy to demonstrate that nearly all types of protective work boots on the market meet both these conditions, and so you can claim them as a tax-deductible expense. 

Writing off work boots as a tax deduction is also conditional on the fact that, unlike a pair of formal shoes, you can’t reasonably wear work boots outside of a work setting.  

Of course, you may wear your work boots on your way to work. 

But they still are not the same, as, for example, smart shoes. You may ‘need’ smart shoes when meeting clients or working in an office, but smart shoes can also be worn outside of work, at parties or dates for example. 

So unlike work boots, smart shoes can’t be written off as a tax deduction. 

So pretty much any kind of work boot provided it is essential to the job you are doing (i.e. it protects your feet) can be claimed as a business expense for tax purposes. 

Don’t try claiming hiking boots as a tax-deductible expense. Hiking boots are quite different than work boots.

The IRS is likely wise to the construction professional who also enjoys a weekend hiking in the woods claiming both pairs of boots as a business expense. 

Of course, there are some grey areas- and so a lot of clothing deductions are still rejected by the IRS. Don’t try and claim a deduction for anything unless it is ordinary in your profession and necessary for the work you are doing. 

How to claim the deduction for your work boots?

As a traditional worker, you would list the cost of protective clothes under Schedule A of IRS form 1040. 

It would only be eligible for a deduction if the protective equipment’s total cost exceeded 2% of your income. 

As a self-employed professional you would file protective equipment as a business expense under Schedule C of IRS form 1040. This will be filed along with your business’s other expenses and income to come to a total taxable profit. 

By filing work boots as a business expense, you are reducing the amount of your taxable profit, and hence your tax burden. 

Does the IRS Audit for Self Employment Tax Deductions?

Yes! And obviously the most important thing you can do in case of an audit is keep receipts for at least five years so you can produce them on demand. 

But there is a lot you can do when filing your tax return to avoid the hassle. If you follow these tips, an IRS audit from your clothing deductions is unlikely;

  1. Firstly, be specific about clothing expenses. What did you buy, who for, when did you buy it, how much did it cost, and why did you buy it.

    Detail will let the IRS know you are spending your business’s money appropriately.
  2. Secondly, if expenses of this kind, or any other, wildly fluctuate, explain why that is. Maybe you paused on a few projects, or found a new, cheaper supplier?
  3. Thirdly, just don’t use the same number for business expenses each year (unless they genuinely are constant). The IRS expects them to change over time. 

FACT: In 2016 only 0.7% of tax returns were audited in 2016, so it’s nothing to worry about largely. 

And in fact these were mostly multi-million $ businesses, the odds of your business being audited if it is doing five or six figures of annual business is much less than even 0.7%. 


At times it can feel like the two most annoying things for construction professionals are the spiralling cost of protective equipment and those bastards in the IRS. 

You can’t avoid these problems or even try to. 

However, there is a way with tax deductions to at least make them less annoying. 

Claiming your work boots a business expense will reduce your taxable profit, and thus the total amount of tax you will have to pay.  And yes, even if the work boots look business casual, you can still claim (as long as you’re using those work boots for your work)

Leaving you with more money for your family, or to invest in your business. 

Sources and some more information on this topic 

Team Members Working On This Page

Adrian – Web Master / Construction Professional

Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!

Theo Cox / Researcher, Writer

I’m an MA student currently working on a research project for King’s College London Museum of Life Sciences alongside my MA dissertation. I have been published in my student newspaper, The Spectator, and the Adam Smith Institute. I’m doing part of the research and writing of the content you’ll read on Enjoy!

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