Working from home – what can be provided tax free?

There has, of course, been a huge increase in employees working from home as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. The employer may have closed their premises, or employees may be following advice to self-isolate.

But what are the tax implications of the various items that employers provide to employees in this situation? And can any be provided / paid tax free?

Some of the key items – and the associated conditions – are considered below. There is an important new exemption for Coronavirus-related reimbursed home office expenses.

These principles would not be relevant to employees who have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and therefore are not working.

The principles around some other key benefits changes arising from coronavirus, as well as homeworking costs for self-employed individuals, are considered further below.

 NON-TAXABLE TAXABLE
Mobile phones and SIM cards (no limit on private use)

Must be only one per employee

 
Broadband

Connection needed to work from home

Wasn’t already provided

Must be for business use

Private use limited
Broadband

Connection was already provided





New exemption

Reimbursed expenses for home office equipment purchased by the employee

Equipment obtained solely to enable employee to work from home during the Coronavirus outbreak

Would have been non-taxable if provided directly by the employee (see below)

Only temporary – from 16 March 2020 to the end of tax year 2020/21
 

New exemption

Reimbursed expenses which don’t meet the conditions of the new exemption

Can potentially be reported on PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA)







Existing exemption

Home office equipment Provided by employer

Mainly business use

No significant private use – based on employee’s duties and the need for them to have the items for their job, not time spent


Laptops, tablets, desktops etc Office supplies

Provided by employer

Mainly business use

No significant private use – based on employee’s duties and need for them to have the items for their job, not time spent
Laptops, tablets, desktops etc
Office supplies


Reimbursed expenses for IT / office equipment bought by the employee

Can be reported on PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA) 
Additional household expenses

Electricity, heating etc

Can be paid or reimbursed

£4 per week up to 5 April 2020

£6 per week from 6 April 2020

Employees should check with the employer if they will accept claims above these amounts and should keep relevant receipts
 
Employer-provided loans

Salary advance / hardship loan

Value of less than £10,000 in a tax year
 
  Reimbursed accommodation / subsistence

expenses for employees who are self-isolating but cannot do so in their own home
Employee using own vehicle for business

Approved mileage allowance payments

Up to 10,000 business miles – 45p per mile

After that – 25p per mile
 
Other benefits

Cost £50 or less to provide

Not cash or cash voucher

Not reward for performance

Not contractual

Could be flowers if somebody is unwell or self-isolating
 

 

Some other benefits changes arising from coronavirus

  • Salary sacrifice – the government guidance on the Job Retention Scheme is that coronavirus counts as a ‘life event’ that could warrant off-cycle changes to salary sacrifice arrangements.
  • Child benefit – families that were not previously eligible for child benefit (due to the tapering of the benefit where the annual income of one parent is £50k+) may become eligible if their income has fallen due to coronavirus. Claims can only be retrospective for a maximum of 3 months.

Self-employed homeworking costs

There needs to be a reasonable method for apportioning costs between business and private use, for example based on the number of rooms or homeworking time. Costs which can potentially be claimed on a proportionate basis are:

  • Heating, electricity
  • Council Tax
  • Mortgage interest or rent
  • Internet / phone use

Flat-rate simplified expenses can be used as an alternative to actual costs. This method is available to self-employed sole traders and business partnerships that have no companies as partners. Individuals must work 25 hours or more a month from home.

The flat rate does not include phone or internet expenses, which must be claimed based on the business proportion of actual costs.

Hours of business homeworking per month Flat rate per month
25-50 £10
51-100 £18
101+ £26

Find out more

If you have any queries on any of the above or would like to discuss how we can assist further, please contact a member of the tax team.

This article was originally written by our colleagues at MHA MacIntyre Hudson.