New tax authorities' position on working from home
The tax authorities announced its position on the tax consequences of working from home in a circular letter at the end of February. The cause is the COVID-19 crisis, but the new position is otherwise separate from the pandemic: it applies to all situations of working from home since 1 March 2021.
Working from home
The circular letter relates to the reimbursement of office costs, furniture, internet connection, private computer ... and the availability of office furniture and/or IT equipment by the employer.
Home working occurs if the employee regularly performs work at home that he/she could also do on the work floor at the employer.
This does involve working from home in the employee's private premises. Working in a satellite office, for example, is not working from home. In addition, it concerns working from home in the context of normal working days. Costs incurred to be able to work during the weekends, for example, do not fall under homeworking!
The new position does not apply to company directors.
Reimbursement of costs
In principle, all allowances paid by an employer to an employee, arising out of or as a result of the professional activity, are taxable as remuneration.
However, the reimbursement of costs proper to the employer is not taxable, but then the parties must be able to demonstrate that the reimbursement is a reimbursement of costs proper to the employer and that the reimbursement was actually used for this purpose.
Fortunately, the tax authorities allow for certain types of expenses to be determined on a lump sum basis.
The tax authorities clarify that the employer may grant a lump sum office allowance that cannot exceed 129,48€/month. That is not new. For the months of April, May and June 2021, you can (not: must) increase this amount to a maximum of 144,31€/month. Up to that maximum amount, the allowance is tax-free (and by the way also free of social security contributions). If you exceed it, the exceeding part is considered as taxable salary.
The maximum should not be reduced in the case of part-time work, and may also continue to be paid during holidays.
You can only grant this lump sum office allowance in case of structural and regular work from home. This means that the employee (viewed on a monthly basis) must work from home at least one working day (or equivalent) per week. E.g., two half working days per week are also allowed. Exceptionally, the system can also be used for non-structural work from home, e.g. if someone is absent for a full calendar month due to illness.
What expenses are covered?
The reimbursement covers costs such as the use of an office space at home (rent, depreciation), printer and computer equipment (not the printer and computer, but the paper, a USB stick, mouse pad, ...), and office supplies (folders, course blocks, pens, ...).
Moreover, the tax authorities allow the employer to reimburse some other expenses in addition to this allowance as costs proper to the employer or to make material available. The circular letter lists what qualifies for this. Among other things, an office chair, a second computer screen, printer / scanner, keyboard are eligible.
However, these expenses cannot be repeated every year. For an office chair, the tax authorities assume a lifespan of 10 years, a second screen only 3 years.
Attention! If the home work or the entire professional activity is stopped and the material does not have to be returned, this creates a benefit in kind for the employee.
Furthermore, the tax authorities also allow the accumulation of different lump sum allowances for working from home with additional lump sum allowances for specific investments. E.g., as an employer, you may also provide a compensation in addition to the above reimbursements:
of maximum 20€/month for the professional use of a private internet connection and subscription; and
of maximum 20€/month for the professional use of the private computer with peripheral equipment or of maximum 10€/month for the professional use of your own second computer screen, printer/scanner without a private computer.
Please note: the rules regarding benefits in kind for the personal use of a PC, tablet, internet connection, mobile telephone or fixed or mobile telephone subscription made available free of charge continue to apply.