Finance

Home office flat rate – who benefits and who doesn’t?

The coalition agrees: Taxpayers should be able to deduct home office costs. However, not in addition to the flat rate for advertising expenses. Who will still benefit then?

It doesn’t sound bad at first: Employees can deduct 5 euros per home office day for this and next year at a flat rate, up to a maximum of 600 euros per year.

This home office flat rate is intended to offset the additional costs that employees had for electricity, water and gas, for example, because they had to work a lot from home due to the pandemic. A real home office is not necessary for this. But there is one catch.

Home office flat rate not in addition to the flat rate for advertising expenses

The lump sum should not be granted in addition to the so-called employee lump sum, but is included in it. The Federal Ministry of Finance insisted on this from the start. The employee lump sum, also known as the lump sum for income-related expenses, is due to every employee and amounts to 1,000 euros. In concrete terms, this means that the relief does not go down well with everyone.

Because only those who, in addition to the home office flat rate, have such high additional advertising costs that they exceed the EUR 1,000 limit, save additional taxes. An important item, which you could normally deduct as income-related expenses, does not apply to the days in the home office: the distance flat rate of 30 cents per kilometer – better known as the commuter flat rate. After all, you may have either worked from home or have driven to the office.

What is more worthwhile: home office or commuter flat-rate?

But for whom would the commuter flat rate be cheaper, for whom the home office flat rate? If you compare the two flat rates alone, the calculation is simple. The home office flat rate is more worthwhile up to a commute of 16 kilometers, from the 17th kilometer the commuter flat rate.

Because: Commuters get 30 cents per kilometer; multiplied by 17 that makes 5.10 euros a day – 10 cents more than the home office flat rate per day. At 16 kilometers, on the other hand, it would only be 4.80 euros.

So far, so simple. However, the calculation doesn’t stop there. Because you still have to consider that the home office flat rate is granted for a maximum of 120 days (5 euros per day x 120 days = 600 euros). Even if it is mathematically more worthwhile per day than the commuter allowance, you cannot benefit from it for the full 225 days, which are usually recognized as working days.

Is the public transport ticket still deductible?

On the other hand, employees working from home save themselves the cost of gasoline or bus and train tickets. So far, it is unclear what applies if you bought a job ticket at the beginning of the year that could not be canceled at short notice – or generally has a subscription for local public transport to go to work.

“We are assuming that you can use the public transport ticket in full – as you do now -” says Dennis Konrad, managing director of the digital tax start-up ExpressSteuer. Daniel Schollenberger, tax expert at Wolters Kluwer, provider of the “Tax Savings Declaration” software, however, suspects that it could only be partially deductible.

Are telephone costs covered by the home office flat rate?

It is also not entirely clear how telephone and internet costs should be treated. So far, employees have been allowed to apply a flat rate of 20 percent to the tax, up to a maximum of 20 euros per month. So you would get 240 euros a year.

However, these costs are now apparently to be included in the home office flat rate. For example, the CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt said that the home office flat rate was used to promote costs for electricity, telephone and internet. This would mean that home office workers who set the full 120 days would only be allowed to deduct telephone and internet costs for the remaining 105 working days.

According to ExpressSteuer founder Konrad, the individual clerk in the tax office should also play a role. “We are assuming that the tax offices will have fewer queries. After all, there will be an enormous rush because millions of short-time workers are required to file a tax return for the first time,” he says. Konrad also does not believe that every home office day has to be documented in detail.

Home office flat rates can be worthwhile if the commute is short

In any case, separately from the home office flat rate, employees may deduct so-called work equipment as additional income-related expenses. This includes, for example, specialist literature, laptops, application costs, work clothing or costs for further training that you had to bear yourself. The tax offices recognize a lump sum of 110 euros. If you had higher expenses, you enter all items individually in your tax return.

“Anyone who does not have a long commute to work, but buys a lot of specialist literature, could benefit now for the first time,” says tax expert Schollenberger. Because then the 600 euros for the home office could help to raise the advertising costs over the 1,000 euros limit.

Example calculation: commuter flat-rate from 14 kilometers better

Since the exact amount of advertising costs varies from employee to employee, there is no general answer to the question of who actually benefits from the home office flat rate. As an example, it is therefore assumed for the following calculations that you:

  • claim the flat-rate deductible 110 euros for work equipment,
  • plus the usual 16 euros for account management fees
  • as well as flat-rate telephone and internet costs of either 240 euros (without home office)
  • or 120 euros (with full home office flat rate; in simplified terms).

In this case, if you travel 6 kilometers to work, you can use the home office flat rate to just exceed the 1,000 euro mark, while you can’t do that with the commuter flat rate.

From kilometer 14, however, the picture rotates. Then you are in both cases above the 1,000 euros flat rate for advertising expenses, but the commuter flat rate raises you a little higher – and every euro more brings you more tax savings.

The specific reimbursement you get from this depends on how much you earn per year and whether you submit your tax return for yourself or with your spouse. The Stiftung Warentest offers one computer, which can help you determine how much tax savings will bring you additional advertising costs.

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