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Uniform allowances

What is a Uniform

It means a specified article or articles of clothing that may include, but is not limited to, such items as shoes, boots, hats, shirts, slacks, skirts, or outerwear an employee is required by an agency to wear to provide a distinctive and easily identifiable appearance in performing his or her job.  A “uniform” does not include protective equipment required for the employee's safety under 5 U.S.C. § 7903 or normal business or work attire purchased at the discretion of the employee

What Is An Allowance

An operating unit head or other delegated authority may pay a uniform allowance not to exceed $800 annually (exclusive of the cost of protective clothing under 5 U.S.C. § 7903) to an employee who is required by statute, regulation, or the written procedure of a bureau or Office to wear a uniform. In lieu of an allowance, the agency may provide the elements of the uniform provided the total expenditure does not exceed $800 annually.

Higher Maximum Allowance

A higher maximum allowance may be paid; however, regulations require that the intent to pay such allowance and the nature of the requirement for such payment be published for notice and comment in the Federal Register prior to payments being made.

Federal Register documentation should detail the: 

  • Circumstances requiring a higher maximum payment; 
  • An estimate of the number of employees affected;
  • The basic uniform items and the average cost; 
  • The effective date of the higher maximum; 
  • The amount the employee will be paid in the first year the higher maximum allowance becomes effective; 
  • The intent of the agency to divide the cost of the minimum basic uniform and continue to make higher maximum allowances in the year following the year the employee first becomes subject to the uniform requirement. 

Operating Unit Responsibilities

Operating unit officials are responsible for issuing instructions governing the payment of uniform allowances, the specifications of the uniform, conditions under which the uniform must be worn, the conditions under which a whole or partial allowance will be authorized, the occasions on which an allowance or part of an allowance will be recouped or repaid, the conditions under which a uniform will be returned, and a statement of accountability for the uniform.

Relation to Other Compensation

A uniform allowance, or the value of a uniform allowance is not pay, salary, or compensation for purposes of retirement, Federal income tax, or social security deductions. 


5 U.S.C. § 5903
5 CFR 591, Subpart A

Reviewed and updated    November 12, 2019