The employer's PC or smartphone: tax authorities' position towards accessories

If you offer equipment to your employees to enable them to work, there are two options. The tax authorities either regard it as an expense proper to the employer (and then it is not taxable for the employee), or as a benefit in kind (and in that case it is, of course, taxable). PCs and smartphones fall into the latter category. But what about their accessories?

Office equipment

At the beginning of 2021, the tax authorities published an extensive circular on making office equipment available to staff for home working. During the corona crisis, many employers had ensured that mandatory telework could continue under the best possible conditions. Screens, ergonomic chairs and printers were purchased for the staff.

The tax authorities agreed that many of these expenses are effectively regarded as costs proper to the employer, so that they are not taxable for the staff member.
But a laptop and mobile phone/smartphones remain a difficult story.

Advantage... but not that much

PCs and smartphones are standard equipment for almost all employees. And yet the tax authorities believe that if you, as an employer, make this material available to your staff, you provide them with a benefit in kind.

The reason is, of course, that employees can easily use these devices for private purposes. Only if it is really established that private use is prohibited or impossible, the tax authorities do not consider the provision of these devices as an advantage.

On the other hand, it must also be said that the taxable basis for such benefit is rather limited. The staff member is not taxed on the actual value of the devices, but on a lump sum. The tax authorities value the benefit from private use as follows:

For a free PC (or laptop): 72 euros/year per device.

For a free tablet or mobile phone: 36 euros/year per device.

And what about the accessories?

In two rulings dated 30 March 2021 (on cafeteria plans), the ruling committee states that a number of accessories are included in the lump sum and therefore do not lead to a separate advantage.

With regard to laptops, the committee clarifies that the package includes: the printer, extra screen, extra charging cable, keyboard and mouse, for use exclusively with the chosen PC or laptop. Also the carrying case for the laptop and a USB stick.
As far as the smartphone is concerned, there is no separate advantage to be charged for standard accessories with a limited value compared to the device. The committee gives as examples: the protective cover, an extra charging cable, but also a power bank.

All these objects are peripherals of the PC or smartphone and therefore do not give rise to any additional benefit of any kind.
They are of course deductible as a professional expense at the employer.

At the end

However, the ruling committee adds that at the end of the provision of the ICT equipment, there may be a taxable benefit in kind amounting to the actual residual value of the device if "the end of the provision is accompanied by the transfer of ownership of the ICT equipment to the private assets of the beneficiary employee”.

In concrete terms: if the employee is allowed to keep his smartphone or laptop at the end of the employment contract, a taxable benefit may arise. In such case, the tax authorities look at the actual value of the material. At that time, the peripheral equipment will be charged. That is also the reason why most employers either ask for the material back or ask for a contribution from the ex-employee.

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