During the Covid-19 pandemic, the advice was ‘work from home if you can’. As a result, millions of employees found themselves working at home, often at very short notice. Many still have not returned to the workplace, and homeworking (whether fully or flexibly) is here to stay.
Employees will generally incur additional costs as a result of working from home. They will use more electricity to run their computer and light their workspace and may use more gas as a result of having the heating on during the day.
While for many years there has been a statutory exemption that allows employers to meet or contribute towards the additional costs of working from home, in recognition of the homeworking requirements imposed by the pandemic, employees who do not receive homeworking payments from their employer are able to claim tax relief for the extra household costs that they have incurred while working from home.
Exemption for costs met by the employer
Employers can pay employees a homeworking allowance of £6 per week (£26 per month) tax-free, and without the employee having to demonstrate that they have actually incurred additional household costs of at least this amount as a result of working from home. The tax-free amount is the same, regardless of whether the employee is required to work from home full-time or one day a week. Consequently, the payments can be made to employees who work flexibly, working from home part of the time and at the employer’s workplace part of the time.
Where the employee’s actual additional household costs as a result of working from home are more than £6 per week, the employer can meet the actual costs tax-free, as long as the employee is able to provide evidence in support of the actual additional costs.
Tax relief for employees
Employees who have been required to work from home can claim tax relief for the additional costs of doing so where these are not met by the employer. HMRC will accept claims of £6 per week/£26 per month without needing evidence of the actual additional costs. Where these are higher, the higher amount can be claimed, as long as this can be substantiated.
HMRC are now accepting claims for 2021/22. Claims can be made online at www.tax.service.gov.uk/claim-tax-relief-expenses/only-claiming-working-from-home-tax-relief?_ga=2.193253997.1398232652.1624373729-980780301.1612354164.
Relief is given for the full tax year, even if the employee returns to the workplace before 5 April 2022. Employees who were entitled to the relief for 2020/21 can also claim for that year if they have not yet done so.
Where an employee is required to complete a self-assessment tax return, the claim can be made on the return. A claim of £6 per week (£312 for the year) will save a basic rate taxpayer £62.40 in tax and a higher rate taxpayer £124.80 in tax.