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Mallalieu v Drummond: Different treatments for ‘Uniform’, ‘Costume’ and an ‘Everyday Wardrobe’

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

If you're a businessman, you shouldn't be able to deduct money spent on the clothes you wear every day.

This is still the case even if formal attire is mandated by some other factor, such as the regulations of a professional organisation.

No deduction is allowed from trading profits for the costs of clothing that form part of a "daily wardrobe," as established by the case of Mallalieu v Drummond [1983] 57 TC 330 (which is explored in full below).

This is true even if the taxpayer can prove they only wear the garments in question when doing their job duties.

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.

Most professionals are required to maintain their appearances. Yet, the expenses of their apparel are not tax deductible (even where they amount to a quasi-uniform, as in Mallalieu v Drummond).

Mallalieu (Respondent)


Drummond (Inspector of Taxes) (Appellant)

[1983] UKHL J0727-1

The taxpayer was a barrister.

To comply with Bar guidance on court dress, she wore, in court and in and to and from chambers, black dresses, suits and shoes and white blouses.

The clothing was perfectly ordinary articles suitable for everyday wear.

But for her professional requirements, she would not have purchased those clothes.

She had other clothes to keep her comfort and decency.

The preservation of warmth and decency was not a consideration which crossed her mind when she bought the clothes.

In computing the profits of her profession in the year of assessment 1977-78, the taxpayer claimed that the sum she had spent on the replacement, laundering and cleaning of the clothes she wore in court was expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively . .

for the purpose of her profession, the taxpayer spent a total of £564.38 on the following items of expenditure:

  • Black tights - £50.00

  • Black shoes - £65.97

  • Black suits - £133.79

  • Black dresses - £73.44

  • Shirts - £134.18

  • Replacement collar - £7.00

  • Laundry and cleaning - £100.00

The issue in this appeal is whether the disbursements of the appellant taxpayer in the relevant years on replacements, laundering and cleaning of the clothes she wore during the practice of her profession of barrister were "wholly and exclusively laid out or expended for the purposes of her profession": see section 130 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal found for the taxpayer, but the House of Lords, by a majority of four to one, found for the Crown.

General Commissioners

On appeal to the General Commissioners against the Inspector’s disallowance under s 130(a) of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970 of her expenditure on, and the laundry expenses of, such clothes, it was contended on her behalf that the test whether her expenditure was “ wholly and exclusively” incurred “ for the purpose of her profession” was subjective and that her expenditure did not cease to be wholly and exclusively incurred for such purposes simply because in addition to achieving a professional purpose it achieved an additional incidental effect. The General Commissioners dismissed the appeal

As stated in the case stated, the Commissioners found, after hearing oral testimony from the appellant, which their findings indicate they accepted, that:-

  1. the appellant would not have have incurred any of the expenditure on the items of clothing in question had it not been for the requirement of her profession that she should comply when appearing in Court with the Notes for Guidance of the Bar Council (which are quoted in the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Brightman);

  2. at all material times, she had a private wardrobe of clothes and shoes which were amply sufficient to keep her clothed and shod in comfort and decency;

  3. the preservation of warmth and decency was not a consideration which crossed her mind when she bought the disputed items;

  4. she bought the items only because she would not have been permitted to appear in Court if she did not wear them in Court, or other clothes like them.

It was common ground that the relevant time for determining what were the appellant's purposes and what was in her mind when the expenditure was incurred was at the moment the expenditure was made.

The Commissioners did look into the appellant's mind (as far as humans can look into the minds of others).

They found that "when Miss Mallalieu laid out money on clothes for wearing in Court, her purpose in making that expenditure was to enable her to earn profits in her profession and also to enable her to be properly clothed during the time she was on her way to chambers or to Court and while she was thereafter engaged in her professional activity."

This apparently is, in fact, what she said, and their findings of fact indicate that they believed her.

The test as to why the expenditure was incurred is subjective.

As Romer L.J. stated in Bentleys, Stokes and Lowless v. Beeson [1952] 2 All E.R., 84 [1952] 2 All E.R., 84 - 85:

"The sole question is: what was the motive or object in the mind of the (individual) in question".

This proposition was affirmed by Walton J. in Robinson v. Scott Bader [1980] 1 W.L.R. and by the Court of Appeal [1981] 1 W.L.R. 1135.

The Commissioners concluded that the expenditure had a dual purpose, one professional and one non-professional. The taxpayer appealed.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal

The High Court reversed the decision of the Commissioners, and its decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, which held that the only proper and reasonable conclusion on the findings of fact made was that the taxpayer’s sole purpose in incurring the expenditure was to satisfy the requirements of her profession.

The Crown appealed.

In the House of Lords

The Crown’s appeal was heard in the House of Lords (Lords Diplock, Elwyn-Jones, Keith of Kinkel, Roskill and Brightman) on 30 June 1983 when judgment was reserved.

On 27 July 1983, judgment was given in favour of the Crown, but Lord Elwyn-Jones dissented.

Hence, the inspector’s appeal succeeded.

Judgment of Lords

1. Lord Elwyn-Jones dissented and concluded:-

Applying that test, I respectfully agree with the conclusions of Slade J. and the Court of Appeal that the Commissioner's findings of fact, in this case, led inevitably to the conclusion that the appellant's expenditure was expended wholly and exclusively for the purposes of her profession.

It was, in my view, not open to the Commissioners, given their findings of fact as to the appellant's purposes, to conclude that, as in this case, the clothing was suitable for private as well as for professional use, one of her purposes must have been to spend money on the clothing for her private use.

This, in my view, was to disregard the evidence they accepted as to her actual motive and purpose.

This, they have found, was to enable her to carry on her profession.

Other benefits derived from the expenditure, namely that the clothing also provided her with warmth and decency, were purely incidental to the carrying on of her profession in the compulsory clothing she had to wear.

I am naturally diffident in disagreeing with my noble and learned brethren. Still, I find the conclusions made by Slade J. and the Court of Appeal inescapable, given the Commissioners' findings of the primary facts in this case.

I would dismiss the appeal.

Lord Elwyn-Jones