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9 tax deductible beauty products for a bigger refund

Bethany Ramos is an editor, blogger, and chick lit author. Bethany works as Editor in Chief for Naturally Healthy Publications.

The beauty tax write-offs most women overlook

If you’ve got a beauty drawer (or cabinet) piled high with goodies, you could be sitting on a tax deductible goldmine. Depending on your profession and your purpose in using your beauty gear, many of your favorite products bought within the last taxable year could be classified as a write-off.

If you’ve been adulting for a while now, you don’t need us to tell you that filing taxes can be a tricky business. In many cases, claiming excessive or unreasonable deductions can lead to an audit, a hellish nightmare that most people hope to avoid at all costs.

But this fear of the IRS has left many of us gun-shy. Rather than upsetting the delicate process that is filing a tax return, we opt to hide our heads in the sand — overlooking plenty of perfectly valid tax deductions that could be coming our way. Based on the most recent tax estimates from TurboTax, the IRS shells out $1.2 trillion in tax deductions, broken down into 45 million people who file itemized deductions, on the regular. If you’re not getting even a little sliver of the pie, you may be missing out.

Fortunately, plenty of fantastic tax deductions are right under your nose — and may be disguised as some of your favorite beauty expenses:

1. Body lotion

Depending on the biz you’re in, a standard body lotion could qualify as a tax deduction, says ZM Ishmurzina, MBA, CPA, partner at Artio Partners. “Body lotions can be deducted as a business expense by massage salons and body builders,” he explains.

2. Cosmetic surgery

Here’s a fun one if you happen to fall into the category of professional dancer — according to Ishmurzina, the cost of breast augmentation qualifies as a tax deduction for strippers and adult dancers since it is considered a stage prop. (Who knew?)

More: Does insurance actually cover cosmetic surgery?

3. Demo products

Mary Kay and Jamberry fanatics, all of your hard work is starting to pay off. Purchasing products to use as demos in an MLM or beauty business can also fall under the tax deductible umbrella. Sarah Nieschalk, EA, licensed tax professional at Tax Defense Network, explains, “Typically, products you purchase to present as a model or demo are tax deductible. This nice thing about this tax break is that it applies to virtually any item that you intend to showcase in this capacity.”

4. Eyewear

Eyeglasses are yet another personal care product that may be tax deductible — though most prescription glasses are written off as a medical expense, as an itemized deductible on form 104, Schedule A. Ishmurzina confirms, "Eyewear products are deductible as a medical expense on Sch. A if the total amount of medical expenses exceeds 10 percent of adjusted gross income."

5. Makeup

If you’re a licensed makeup artist with a drawer, box or even suitcase of makeup used for professional purposes within the past year, you’re in luck. “Makeup can be deducted by a makeup artist if s/he uses this makeup for his/her clients,” says Ishmurzina.

More: 8 Things your wedding makeup artist wants you to know

6. Hair care

Performers are just one more example of hard-working professionals who can expect to reap tax deductible beauty benefits. Ishmurzina explains that if you are a performing artist who requires hairstyling before a show, the cost of that hairstyle can be written off too.

7. Salon space

Working at or owning a salon isn’t an easy industry to break into, but it does have its benefits come tax time. Renting or owning your own salon space means you can deduct some or all of the costs, depending on the scenario, says Nieschalk. She adds, “Much like your inventory, virtually any furniture you use in your salon is tax deductible. This includes sofas or chairs for customers in your lobby, or the chairs they occupy when you’re reshaping their appearance. Any supporting furniture for equipment, such as racks or mobile counters, may also be deducted.”

More: Hair salon introduces a 'quiet chair' — just what we've been waiting for

8. Professional hair equipment

When working as a beauty professional, this one’s a given. Almost any tools, products or gear that you use to perform daily services on clients falls into that magical category of being tax deductible. Nieschalk explains, “These may include coloring agents, shampoos, gels, removal wax, scissors, curling irons — basically, anything that is essential inventory for operation of your business.”

9. Salon magazines

As the icing on the cake, there are plenty of little extras that can slide in under the wire. Nieschalk says that in a salon, this could mean that small purchases like magazines or entertainment publications for waiting clients can also be written off.

The fine print

The IRS is nothing if not meticulous, so it’s important to pay attention to detail before you file. Nieschalk reminds us that every beauty deduction will require a receipt, while Ravi Ramnarain, a licensed CPA in Florida, Massachusetts and Arkansas, explains that beauty write-offs are a type of deduction all their own. He says, “For individuals, the only way that beauty products could even begin to be considered deductible is if you are itemizing your deductions (instead of taking the standard deduction). However, one must be cognizant of the fact that beauty products do not count as ‘normal’ itemized deductions.”

According to Ramnarain, beauty products count as ‘miscellaneous’ itemized deductions that are subject to the following requirements:

  • A two percent "floor" (i.e., you can only deduct miscellaneous itemized deductions that exceed two percent of your Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI).
  • The total of all of your itemized deductions (normal and miscellaneous) must exceed the standard deduction for the year in question.
  • A requirement that you work in the beauty industry (or a closely related field).
  • Proof that you were not already reimbursed for the out-of-pocket beauty product expenses by your employer.

These qualifications may seem overwhelming at first glance, but don’t let the red tape deter you. When in doubt, Nieschalk says, “You may want to consult with a licensed tax professional before filing, just to make sure you’re on point. He or she can provide suggestions for how to reduce this year’s tax bill, as well as some best practices to make the most of your expenses and deductions in preparation for next tax season.”

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