Money, money, money – Abba admit to fashion choices for tax

March 2014



Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus has admitted that the glittering hot pants, sequined jump suits and platform shoes the band wore were as much to save tax as they were to stand out from the crowd. Writing in a new book, Abba The Official Photo Book, Ulvaeus said “In my honest opinion we looked like nuts in those days. Nobody can have been as badly dressed on stage as we were” but explains that the Swedish Tax Code allowed costumes to be deducted against tax – provided they were so outrageous that they could not be worn on the street – worn as ‘daily wear’.

The UK tax code has similar provisions: The case of Mallalieu v Drummond [1983] 57 TC 330 established that no deduction is available from trading profits for the costs of clothing which forms part of an ‘everyday’ wardrobe. This remains so even where the taxpayer can show that they only wear such clothing in the course of their profession. It is irrelevant that the person chooses not to wear the clothing in question on non-business occasions, the only question is whether the clothing might suitably be worn as part of a hypothetical person’s ‘everyday’ wardrobe. The cost of clothing that is not part of an ‘everyday’ wardrobe (for example a nurse’s uniform or evening dress (‘tails’) worn by a professional waiter) faces no such bar to deduction. The cost of specialist clothing required to discharge the duties of the trade, profession or vocation is allowable (Lord Brightman).

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