For the Swedish supergroup, it wasn’t just about the music.
May 11, 2020 3 min read
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C’mon, just admit it: You’re an ABBA fan. I get it. So am I.
And how could you not be? The ’70’s Swedish super group produced some of the most sing-able, happiest, snappiest songs ever, from “Dancing Queen” to “Fernando.” When ABBA is played at a bar or party or just on the radio, everyone — regardless of age — seems to know the lyrics and sings along.
Besides their songs, one of the most definable things about ABBA was their clothes. Much has been written about their many outrageous outfits over the years, and most fans would agree that the band’s clothing choices were never … well … understated. For years, ABBA’s fans thought it was just the group’s way of showing their uniqueness, their individuality, their brand. But there’s another reason for the crazy costumes, a reason that would actually be more appealing not to the teenagers who went to their shows, but to the accountants who did their taxes.
According to an official biography published in 2014, the band’s outlandish outfits were worn simply to get a tax deduction. “In my honest opinion, we looked like nuts in those years,” Björn Ulvaeus, one of the group’s members, reportedly said. “Nobody can have been as badly dressed on stage as we were.” The dress was so “bad” that no one would ever think of wearing those clothes outside of work. Which is exactly the point.
The tax rules in Sweden in the 1970s stipulated that work clothes worn by business owners (like the members of ABBA) were deductible, so long as they weren’t worn for any purpose outside of the job. If you’re a small-business owner in the U.S. in 2020, guess what? The same applies to you.
Which means that you can deduct your work clothes too. Just so long as the clothes are an “ordinary and necessary” expense of your business and that you’re not using those same clothes for personal purposes.
So your business suit — like a coat and tie — wouldn’t apply, but a uniform you put on specifically for the purpose of your business does as long as it’s not used outside of the business. If you purchase clothing, boots and other wearable accessories for your employees that are necessary for their jobs, then you can deduct those costs too. All of these deductions can either be taken on your corporate tax return or on your Schedule C to your individual return if you’re not incorporated.
So go ahead and feel free to deduct the cost of your work clothing, as long as you follow the above rules. But please, no platform shoes or sequins, thank you very much.