Berlin In times of a pandemic, it is best to stay at home, and that also applies to working hours. For many, home office has therefore become part of everyday life this year. Now this is also to have an effect on taxes - but only for a limited time and not for everyone.
From one day to the next, the kitchen table became a desk, the children's room a workplace: because of the Corona crisis, millions of people in Germany had to work from home at least some of the time this year.
This eliminated long commutes, but at the same time increased electricity and heating costs. Some people bought a desk and office chair and had to invest in faster internet. The Bundestag has decided that some of the money will now be refunded through the tax return. But by no means everyone will benefit.
Can't I already deduct study as my home office?
Yes, but that only applies if work is done almost exclusively in this study. The tax office does not accept the desk in the hallway, the work corner in the living room or the laptop on the kitchen table as a home office. However, this is exactly how many have had to work recently - only a few employees have so much space at home that they can set up their own study that is not also used privately.
So what are the exact plans now?
There is a tax allowance of 5 Euro for each day of home office - but only for a maximum of 120 days, i.e. a maximum of 600 Euro in total. Anyone who has worked at home for more than 120 days is out of luck. This amount is deducted from income when calculating tax. The taxable income is thus lower and the taxes due are reduced.
Do I have to prove my time in the home office?
This is not yet clear. Experts advise, however, that you should get a confirmation from your employer. This is especially true if someone has worked sometimes in the office and sometimes from home. As a rule, however, employees no longer have to submit proof to the tax office for simple tax returns.
Is the flat rate worth it for everyone?
That depends on the individual case. This is because the home office allowance, like the commuter allowance, counts as income-related expenses. These are expenses incurred in connection with the job, such as work clothes or further training. A lump sum of 1,000 Euro is deducted from everyone's income - regardless of whether they can prove these expenses or not. Only those whose income-related expenses, including the home office allowance, exceed 1000 Euro will receive extra relief. For all others, it fizzles out. But without the restriction, the flat rate would probably have become too expensive, according to coalition circles.
Who benefits more and who does not?
That depends, for example, on how far one used to have to travel to work. The more days someone has worked from home, the less commuter allowance they can claim. This amounts to 0.30 Euro per kilometre of travel to work (one way) - from around 17 kilometres to work, the commuter allowance is therefore mathematically more worthwhile than the home office allowance. Although commuting still incurs costs for fuel or tickets, home office commuters may incur higher costs for electricity, heating and internet.
Is the flat rate to apply permanently?
No, it will be limited to two years, i.e. it will apply to the tax returns for 2020 and 2021. After that, it is hoped that the pandemic will be over and everyone will be able to work at their normal place of work again. The time limit could also have to do with money: The federal government expects additional costs of just under one billion Euro.
What else can be claimed against tax in the home office?
Purchases such as a desk, printer, office chair or laptop can also be deducted if the employer does not cover the costs. If you use your own telephone and internet connection for business purposes, you can also claim this - but usually only about 20 percent of the monthly bill. All of this also counts as income-related expenses.
(Original text: Theresa Münch, dpa / Translation: Mareike Graepel)