Employees can’t write off home office expenses as a tax deduction, because of changes supported by Trump. But the self-proclaimed multibillionaire reportedly wrote off about $70,000 on styling for his comb-over and $2.2 million in property taxes on his private New York estate.
In a scathing report, the New York Times said it received tax documents that show Trump paid only $750 in income taxes for 2016 and 2017 and no personal income taxes in 10 of the 15 years previous years. This is stunning news.
Trump deducted $70,000 for the cost of his haircuts and hairstyling for appearances on “The Apprentice” reality show, the Times reported. And Trump’s businesses deducted at least $95,464 paid to a hair and makeup stylist of his daughter Ivanka Trump.
Claiming the expenses are business-related allows Trump to avoid having all his income taxed, the returns showed. But to be deductible, “a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary,” the IRS explains on its website. “An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business.”
I don’t know about you, but a $70,000 deduction for hairstyling expenses doesn’t seem ordinary or necessary to me.
I polled some tax professionals. They, too, were skeptical of the legitimacy of some of Trump’s deductions.
“An average citizen can’t take all those deductions,” said Deenice Galloway, a Maryland-based tax professional. “I want to know who his tax person is because I have a lot of questions. The deductions don’t seem legitimate to me.”
Galloway, in discussing Trump’s haircut and styling deductions for himself and his daughter, said it’s possible that Trump could claim that as an entertainer, he had to wear his hair a certain way.
“But you don’t have to wear a comb-over,” Galloway said. “That is not a reasonable and necessary expense for your job. I don’t get it. To me, it sends the wrong message. You can’t just throw everything under your business.”
A stage performer whose hairstyle is unique to his or her performance might argue that the cost of the styling is deductible. As NPR reported in 2014, part of the reason Abba wore such elaborate clothes — hot pants, jumpsuits, platform boots — was to get a tax break on their Swedish returns. “To be able to deduct clothing, the clothing must be a costume, uniform or protective clothing,” says Lawrence Pon, a certified public accountant (CPA) based in Redwood City, Calif.
Generally, U.S. tax rules do not allow you to deduct personal, living or family expenses. So, no, you can’t deduct the business wear for your job or the dry cleaning bill — although “musicians and entertainers can deduct the cost of theatrical clothing and accessories that aren’t suitable for everyday wear,” according to the IRS.
“The cost of hairstyling and makeup expenses for same-day film appearances or photo shoots are deductible,” according to Therese Tippie, a CPA and tax manager at EP Wealth Advisors in California. “However, the cost to maintain a physical appearance is not deductible.”
You may be wondering: If Trump can deduct his haircut, can I claim a home office deduction now that I am forced to work from my house? Unless you are self-employed, an independent contractor or working a gig job, “employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the IRS said in a recent post reminding people about the home office deduction rules.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect in 2018, eliminated unreimbursed business expenses for employees. “Accordingly, there is no deduction for expenses incurred for your home office,” Pon pointed out. “However, if you are an independent contractor or have your own business, you can claim home office expenses on Form 8829.”
Pon recalled a humorous U.S. Tax Court case about work-related clothing. The IRS disallowed overalls and steel-toed boots for a West Virginia welder. The worker challenged the decision.
“The Tax Court judge noted he was wearing the exact same clothes and boots in the courtroom that he was trying to deduct,” Pon said. “The judge asked one question: ‘Are you at work?’ ”
Don’t follow Trump’s example, Pon said.
“He reminds me of the type of person who treats dealing with the IRS as a sport,” he said. “Clients with that mentality really stress me out, and they never pay me enough.”