As the cost of living rises and many countries experience an energy price hike there’s a growing concern over the cost of working from home.
However, with the right knowledge in place, could remote working remain cheaper than a traditional office job?
No matter where you live, knowing your employee rights and your nation’s available benefits for remote workers is crucial for reducing the cost of living while working from home.
The British government offers remote employees a standard tax relief of £6 per week to support the costs of additional gas, electricity, and communication charges related to working from home.
However, from 6 April 2022, the £6 a week can only be claimed if your job requires you to work from home because you live far away from your office or if your employer does not have an office.
Remote UK employees can claim for:
- Gas and electricity for your work area
- Business phone calls
Note that you cannot claim for expenses that you require for both private and business use such as rent and broadband.
In Ireland, remote workers are entitled to 10-30% reimbursement of their electricity, heating and internet bills for the number of days worked at home.
The reimbursement is broken down into 10% of the cost of electricity and heat incurred based on the number of days worked at home over the year.
A further 30% reimbursement of the cost of broadband is also based on the number of days worked at home over the year.
In Germany, remote workers are entitled to €5 per day for remote working expenses. This is capped at €600 (the equivalent of 120 days of remote work).
This working-from-home allowance (or Homeoffice-Pauschale) can be granted to German remote workers. The scheme is only applicable to days on which you exclusively work from home. For example, you cannot claim €2.50 for a working day split equally between home and the office.
Full-time remote workers and self-employed people can also claim full remote work business expenses. For them to qualify, they need to have a dedicated and separate home office – an area which is purely for work purposes (a guest room with a desk in the corner does not count).
However, the €5 flat rate for up to 120 days applies to all working-from-home setups.
Remote workers in France can claim an allowance for their home office. This is often reimbursed as a lump sum to the employee. The allowance is limited to €10 per month for an employee working from home once a week.
Under this scheme, the employer is only responsible for the costs incurred by remote working from home if the company agreement or the policy provides for this. There is no statutory obligation, meaning that reimbursements are down to the discretion of each company.
As of October 2020, employers are required to cover all the expenses associated with work-from-home equipment for workers in Spain. That includes computer hardware, tools, and furniture needed by employees to perform their work duties from a remote or home office location.
The Spanish Telework Law also states that if a remote worker spends a minimum of 30% of their workday away from the regular workplace (e.g. working remotely), the employer should contribute to work-from-home expenses.
This meant that if an employee works at least 1.5 days per week from home, every week, then their employer should be supporting their remote working costs.
Currently, the Telework Law does not specify how to calculate the reimbursement, so the worker and employer must draw up a telework agreement, specifying the expenses incurred by working remotely and the support put in place.
In 2019, Switzerland ruled that if an employee is required to work from home then the company must pay a share of their rent. This is available to employees in Switzerland who work for fully remote companies or if there isn’t an office within a reasonable distance from their home.
This policy states that employers should provide rent contributions which are proportional to the employee’s salary. BBC Worklife indicated that for a full-time employee the payment usually lies between CHF250 and CHF500.
If you work from home in Australia, you can claim a deduction for the additional running expenses you incur. These include:
- Electricity expenses associated with heating, cooling and lighting the area from which you are working and running items you are using for work
- Cleaning costs for a dedicated work area
- Phone and internet expenses
- Computer consumables (for example, printer paper and ink) and stationery
- Home office equipment, including computers, printers, phones, furniture and furnishings – you can claim either the full cost of items up to $300 or the decline in value (depreciation) for items over $300.
To claim your tax back, remote workers need to complete a form online and calculate their expenses.
To do this employees require records of all the hours they work at home, receipts for all depreciating assets or equipment they used when working at home, and records of personal and work-related use of assets.
The Australian government also offers remote workers the “52 cents per hour method”, which employees may find more simple to apply for. The method offers 52 cents per working hour and allows remote workers to itemise certain deductions such as telephone costs and internet expenses.
In Canada, remote workers can claim up to 10 home working expenses, including electricity, heating and internet. The reimbursements are proportional to your wage and time spent working from home.
The Canadian government also introduced Flat Rate Expenses for 2020-2022. If you worked more than 50% of the time from home (for a period of at least four consecutive weeks) in the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can claim $2 for each day you worked from home during that period. You can also claim any additional days you worked at home in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The maximum amount that can be claimed is $400 per individual in 2020 and $500 per individual in 2021 and in 2022.
You can also make a detailed claim of all home working expenses by saving all accounts and filling in a form via the Canadian government website. You are required to keep your records for six years when doing this expense claim method.
In Canada, home workers can claim for;
- Home internet access fees
- Maintenance and minor repair costs
- Rent that paid for a house or apartment where you live
- Home insurance
- Property taxes
- Lease of a cell phone, computer, laptop, tablet, fax machine or any equipment that reasonably relates to earning commission income
Currently, the United States doesn’t offer a standardised tax relief support package for remote workers who are employed by a company. Any support provided to full-time remote employees is down to the discretion of each company.
However, self-employed remote workers can claim tax relief on home office expenses and bills. A tax break is available for self-employed, gig workers or independent contractors, who are not employed by a company that gives them a W-2 come tax season. The tax break allows you to write off 100% of office-related expenses such as furniture, office repairs, and a proportion of your household bills. To qualify for this, you need to keep a record of all your expenses and fill out a form with the American government.
To deduct a portion of household bill expenses such as gas and electricity, you need to calculate the size of your office versus your home. For example, if your home office is 10% of your entire living space, you can deduct 10% from the costs of your mortgage, rent, utilities and some kinds of insurance.
A simplified version of the tax break allows self-employed workers to claim $5 per square foot of their home office. This scheme is capped at 300 square feet, meaning the maximum sum of relief is $1,500.
You must prove that you need an office for your work and that your home office is only used for your business and dedicated to work use. So, you cannot claim for a guest room or dining room with a desk in it.
As well as these tax relief benefits from working from home, remote workers from across all countries can also enjoy many powerful environmental benefits of remote work as well as savings from high commute costs.
Commenting on the saving opportunities linked to not commuting when working from home, Nadia Vatalidis, VP of People at Remote says;
“For many workers, remote work eradicates time spent commuting and the associated costs. Instead of spending a large chunk of time each day travelling to the office, remote workers can focus their time, energy and pay on themselves, their loved ones and their local communities.
“Savings from not commuting are significant. One UK study showed that the average motorist commuter travelled 18.6 miles to and from work each day, meaning that driving to work costs the UK worker on average £15,496 a year. Things aren’t much better stateside, with research suggesting that commuters in the US spend approximately $8,466 on their commute every year.
“With a remote working system, these costs are savings put directly back into the employees’ pockets.”