Working From Home
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have brought on a huge shift for people to work from home. Several business leaders have determined that having employees work from home is entirely possible and a great way to reduce overhead costs. Why would you force your employees to drive across town and sit in an office when they are just as productive (if not more) in their own homes? This trend has impacted our household. My husband’s automotive expenses are a fraction of what they were a year ago. On the other hand, our utilities, unlimited highest speed internet requirements, toilet paper and coffee costs have increased substantially. How does this trend impact your tax filing obligations?
Information for Employers:
If you have required your employees to work from home at least 50% of the time, they can claim some of their home office expenses on their personal tax returns. When you hand out your employees T4s, provide a completed T2200 Declaration of Conditions of Employment form. Indicate on the appropriate sections that the employee was required to work from home.
Based on the size of their home office, your employees will be able to claim a percentage of their expenses. This percentage is calculated by dividing the workspace area by the total finished area of the home. Expenses to track include: Utilities (heat, electrical, water), and maintenance (cleaning supplies, paint, plumbing, etc.) and rents. If your employee is paid commissions, they may also claim their insurance and property taxes. If home office specific expenses are incurred (fax line, increased internet capacities, office space only maintenance), the entire expense may be deductible. For example, if your household normally spent $50 per month on internet and now you spend $150 so that your ZOOM calls don’t freeze, one could argue that the $100 extra should be deductible. Similarly, if you revamped a spare room to create an office oasis (paint, shelves) you may (within reason) claim 100% of these costs.
Ensure that your employees are aware that employment expenses are often reviewed by Canada Revenue Agency. Encourage your team to keep their receipts/invoices/statements to be able to prove their claims.
Information for Business Owners:
Whether you are incorporated or a proprietor, you may also claim some home office expenses. The portion claimable is calculated in the same manner as for employees (office space divided by total finished area of your home). In calculating this percentage, it’s tempting to say that a significant portion of the home is used for business purposes. As a general rule, it’s best to keep the percentage around 10%. Any more than that and Canada Revenue Agency can argue that your home was a revenue generating property and you put your Principal Residence Exemption at risk… meaning tax implications on any gains when you sell your house. Also note that if you rent a secure commercial space, you likely cannot claim your office as well.
Keep track of your rents, heat, electricity, insurance, mortgage interest, property taxes, security monitoring fees, and maintenance costs. You can claim the calculated portion of those expenses. Consider office specific costs: the portion of internet required for the smooth running of your business, a fax line, office décor, desk, shelves, chair, chair mat, WIFI booster, etc. These office specific costs may be considered 100% for business purposes and expensed accordingly. Larger items such as furniture, computer, printers, and other office equipment would be expensed over a period of time via Capital Cost Allowance.
Ensure that your claims are reasonable and justifiable. Would it pass the sniff test for Canada Revenue Agency? Was it an expense incurred to earn business income? I think my favorite COVID-19 home office question so far has got to be: With the shortage of toilet paper, do you think I can justify expensing the entire cost of the bidet seat for my toilet? This client won tons of points for creativity and making me laugh out loud during a particularly stressful time in the accounting world. My advice: I would stick to the 10% household repairs and maintenance write off on this one.
If you have any specific questions or concerns about home office expenses for either your employees or yourself as a business owner, I’m always happy to chat. Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angela Richardson is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) with more than 17 years experience working in public practice with small to medium sized businesses. While financial statements and tax returns are part of the occupation, consulting and assisting clients to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams is her true passion.