As explained in previous GHR TaxPages, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to various tax issues. What impact does the home office obligation have on professional costs (such as travel costs or the deduction for a study)? And what about the replacement for food when you have to eat at home?
Deduction of professional expenses in general
In order to take account of the specific situation during the pandemic, non-employees may claim their professional costs in the 2020 tax return in the same way as they would have done without measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Professional costs include, for example, the cost of travel between a place of residence and work, the additional costs of meals, the flat-rate deductions for other professional costs, the costs of childcare or training costs. There will be no reduction in pandemic home office days. In return, this handling excludes the deduction for home office costs. Thus, if you deduct the flat-rate professional expenses from taxes, you cannot claim a deduction for home office expenses in most cantons.
Travel costs in particular
Taxpayers who use public transport for their commute can claim the costs incurred. If an annual public transport subscription has been resolved, these costs can be claimed, even if the subscription (e.B. due to unplanned home office) could not be used all year round. The additional claim of the car costs remains possible due to the unreasonable use of public transport. For the sake of simplicity, most cantons do not require proof of the reasonable use of public transport during the pandemic. However, an exception applies, for example, to the canton of Basel-Stadt, which grants the deduction for travel expenses of particularly vulnerable persons, but only if they provide a medical certificate. A very far-reaching intrusion of the treasury into the personality sphere of taxpayers.
Compensation of private study
Compensation for the use of private study rooms or storage rooms, including the costs of furniture, infrastructure, Internet access and the like, must always be added to the gross wage. They do not represent (tax-free) expenses.
If the employer pays flat-rate expenses in connection with the granting of home office, these must be added to the taxable income. In return, the flat-rate deduction for professional expenses may be claimed.
Short-time working and loss of earnings compensation
As a rule, short-time working and loss of earnings are paid by the employer and are therefore included in the pay slip. Therefore, they do not have to be declared separately. In the case of direct payment by the compensation fund to the taxable persons, they shall be declared separately as replacement income.
The pragmatic approach of the tax administrations is very welcome. It avoids both unequal treatment of taxpayers solely on the basis of their cantonal affiliation and an excessive burden on the administration in the context of assessment proceedings.
Perhaps this pragmatism in one form or another survives the pandemic – it should be welcomed.
A contribution from Gerhard Roth
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