Most of us are always looking to write off anything and everything possible from our taxes. At the same time, we also shy away from some things in fear of the dreaded audit. But if you spend some serious dough on beauty products, chances are you're sitting on a whole heap of tax-deductible items — especially if you're in the beauty profession.
Based on the most recent tax estimates from TurboTax, the IRS shells out $1.2 trillion in tax deductions every year. Although it might change with next year's tax bill, for 2017 filings, it's time to dig deep and see if any of that cash belongs to you.
1. Body lotion
Depending on the biz you’re in, a standard body lotion could qualify as a tax deduction, says certified public accountant ZM Ishmurzina, partner at Artio Partners.
“Body lotions can be deducted as a business expense by massage salons and bodybuilders,” 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?)
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 a multilevel marketing or beauty business can also fall under the tax-deductible umbrella. Sarah Nieschalk, licensed tax professional at Tax Defense Network, explains, “Typically, products you purchase to present as a model or demo are tax deductible. The nice thing about this tax break is that it applies to virtually any item that you intend to showcase in this capacity.”
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."
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 [he or she] uses this makeup for his [or] her clients,” says Ishmurzina.
6. Hair care
Performers are just one more example of hardworking 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
Renting or owning a salon isn’t easy 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.”
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 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 2 percent "floor" (i.e., you can only deduct miscellaneous itemized deductions that exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income).
- The total of all 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 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.”
A version of this article was originally published in February 2016.