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The home office as a “domestic” study”?

During the Corona crisis, employees increasingly work in so-called home offices. In this context, the question arises as to whether or how expenses attributable to the home workplace can be taken into account for tax purposes, e.g. as income-related expenses.

Recognition as a home office

According to the current regulations, tax consideration is only possible at all if the room used for professional purposes is to be regarded as a “home office”. This is the case if the study is used almost exclusively for professional purposes. A private shared use of the study of 10% is already detrimental and would lead to the complete non-recognition of the room; a claim for pro-rata room costs (corresponding to the professional share of use) is then also not possible.

This means that otherwise privately used rooms in which office work is done in a “work corner” (e.g. in the living or sleeping area) remain excluded from tax consideration. Under the current legal situation, a number of home office workplaces are thus unlikely to benefit.

Tax consideration of the costs

However, if the requirements for recognition as a “home office” are met, the consideration of the expenses further depends on whether

  • the workroom represents the center of the entire professional activity or whether
  • no other workplace is available for the professional activity.

In case a), it is possible to claim the pro rata housing costs attributable to the study (rent or depreciation, debt interest, energy costs, fees, insurance premiums, room furnishings, etc.) without limitation.

In case b), a corresponding deduction of income-related expenses is possible, but only up to the amount of 1,250 euros per year; the maximum amount is not to be reduced pro rata temporis even if the home office is not used throughout the year. The employee must specifically demonstrate that another workplace is not available for the professional activity (if necessary, by submitting a certificate from the employer). However, this condition should be fulfilled regularly in Corona times.

Payment of a user fee by the employer

If the employer pays a rent for the use of the study as a home office, a full deduction of income-related expenses may be possible.

Leasing in the interest of the employer

The rents paid by the employer are to be allocated to income from renting and leasing if the use of the study is in the interest of the employer (e.g. if no suitable workplace is available at the employer’s premises or if the employer rents corresponding premises from third parties for other employees). A written agreement on the transfer of the workroom should be in place. If, in these cases, long-term surpluses are generated by the rental, the expenses attributable to the apartment are regularly deductible as income-related expenses without any restrictions; they are not subject to the deduction restrictions for home offices.

Renting in the interest of employees

In particular, if a workstation is available for the employee at the employer’s premises, this is an indication that the use of a home office as a home office is predominantly in the employee ‘s interest. If the employer pays remuneration for the use of the home office in this case, this is part of the salary subject to tax and social security contributions. The expenses attributable to the home office can then only be deducted in accordance with the German Income Tax Act. § 4 para. 5 sentence 1 no. 6b EStG may be deducted as income-related expenses if the room forms the center of the entire professional activity.