County employees pay IRS for blue jeans

February 18, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

The IRS believes that Boyle County Public Works employees could sport their county uniform jeans at the movies, when dining out or to shoot pool.

Never mind the oil and tar stains or the torn and burned patches.

The employees have to pay taxes on the jeans, because the federal government said so, but they can't really wear them outside of work. The county personnel policy prohibits it.

Boyle Fiscal Court buys employees a pair of jeans every two years and pays to have the clothes laundered. The tax on this service is $2 every two weeks, which is taken out of their checks.

The county learned of this rule at the beginning of the year, so employees were charged for back taxes for 2003, a $52 bill.


If the county wanted to avoid making all of its employees pay taxes on their uniforms it had to pass a policy that forbids employees from wearing their uniforms when not on the job. So, even though the public works employees pay taxes on their jeans, they still can't wear them away from work.

County engineer Duane Campbell let employees opt for the jeans, instead of khakis, because the county crew can be hard on their clothes. They dig ditches, lay concrete, clear snow and work on trucks.

"They take a beating," public works employee James McPherson said of his work jeans.

But McPherson and his co-worker, Scott Thompson, said they don't mind the $2 taxes.

"I don't mind, I'm glad we have furnished uniforms," Thompson said.

Still it's hard to imagine that any of the guys would dress up for a night out on the town and choose the same jeans they wore to spread salt on roads at 3 a.m.

It's all in the jeans. According to Campbell, the IRS doesn't have a problem if employers supply khaki pants to employees.

It comes down to one phrase on the 1040 form's Schedule A itemized deduction sheet - "suitable for ordinary wear."

In a year when the uniform contract runs out, the county plans to switch all of its employees to standard issue uniforms. Until then, the tax is a certainty for the jean-clad employees.

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