8. December 2020

Working from home: What are the advantages and disadvantages?

To contain the coronavirus, many employees have been encouraged by their employers to work from home. Many are happy about the development, as the annoying trip to the office is eliminated and working in a jogging suit becomes part of everyday life. Others lack the way out of their own four walls and the little chat in the coffee kitchen. Especially since some employees complain that they will incur more costs if they work from home every day. Many employees have already bought new furniture such as an office chair, as the back has made itself felt. Who pays for the costs?

Additional costs in the home office

If you now work at home every day instead of in the office, you actually have more private costs as well. Your laptop, screen and printer consume electricity,you want to have it comfortably warm during the day in your house or apartment and heat accordingly more. You also have to pay for the coffee, tea or water yourselfif you may have received it from your employer beforehand. Verivox has calculated that around four percent higher heating requirements in the home office must be expected.

The grand coalition has acknowledged these emerging additional costs and is planning a tax break for workers working from home during the corona pandemic. A home office flat rate for employees of five euros per dayis planned. “Especially the benefits of employees and especially parents in the home office require special support from the point of view of the Federal Government,” says a letter from the Federal Ministry of Finance. The tax lump sum is to be included in the Annual Tax Act 2020 and initially limited to two years. However, the home office lump sum for tax relief is capped: For example, an employee can only claim up to 600 euros a year for tax purposes. Until now, employees could only deduct costs for domestic work for tax purposes if there was a study that was almost exclusively used for work.

There are still some questions about the home office package open

The home office flat rate has not yet been adopted, but will come. It is still unclear whether it will be in addition to the employee lump sum. To date, employees have been able to claim advertising costs of 1,000 euros in their tax return. If the lump sum now comes in addition, it would be a maximum of 1,600 euros that can be claimed. Here, the tax authorities would have a lot of taxpayers’ money going through their fingers.

The question of whether the home office flat rate and the commuter flat rate can be claimed together is already off the table. When you drive to the office, you can claim the distance allowance of 30 cents per kilometer for the easy way as usual. You can only submitthe home office lump sum to the tax if you have actually stayed at home. Employees who have an easy commute of up to 16 kilometers have a tax advantagethrough the home office flat rate. How the tax office proceeds with employees who deduct their train subscription ticketis also still unclear.

What happens after the Corona crisis and what home office costs will be covered by the employer?

After the corona pandemic, the home office packageshould be over again. Too bad, because many companies have already announced that working at home should continue to be possible even after the pandemic. Therefore, employers should already consider how they can relieve their employees: Be it with an ergonomically shaped chair to prevent back problems, a better Internet connection or appropriate hardware. Employees who sit at small laptop screens for a long time do not work efficiently, and on the other hand, they spoil their eyes and backs. So equip your employees with the necessary equipment in good time to avoid consequential damage. Through years of experience in this area, we at the BPV Group can tell you exactly what your employees really need to work efficiently at home. We work with strong partners so that we can present you with good offers. Let’s talk about your needs or read our blog post on the topic “What is the ideal equipment for working from home?”

But who pays for all the purchases? From a purely legal point of view, the employer must pay for the costs incurredso that the employee can fulfil his duty to work. That would be the cost of the workplace and the corresponding work equipment. In short, the costs that would have been incurred even if a company workplace had been made available.

If the employee uses his private laptop or PC for his job,claims for reimbursement of expenses for the purchase and maintenance arise – at least proportionately. But be careful with the simultaneous use of hardware in the private and professional sector. Data protection must be ensured here. On the one hand, it is important to protect the customer data and on the other hand, your own data according to the GDPR. What there is to consider here, read in our blog post on the ideal equipment for working from home. For consumables such as paper, the costs are to be borne in full by the employer. The employer’s proportionate participation in water, electricity, heating and Internet costs, on the other hand, is more difficult, as the evidence is not clear which costs have been incurred anyway and what additional costs arise when working from home.

You will notice that the topic of costs in the home office is not easy. It is best to sit down with your works council and negotiate a fair solution for the employees or show them your gratitude with a small contribution that they work from home. After all, office costs are also reduced if many or all employees are in the home office.

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