Tax relief for working from home

If you are an employee working from home, you may be able to claim tax relief for some of the bills you pay that are related to your work. 

Employers can reimburse employees for the additional household expenses incurred through regularly working at home.

The relief covers expenses such as business telephone calls or heating and lighting costs for the room you are working in. Expenses that are for private and business use (such as broadband) cannot be claimed. Employees may also be able to claim tax relief on equipment they have bought, such as a laptop, chair or mobile phone.

Employers can pay up to £6 per week (or £26 a month for employees paid monthly) to cover an employee’s additional costs if they have to work from home. Employees do not need to keep any specific records if they receive this fixed amount. 

If the expenses or allowances are not paid by the employer, then employees can claim tax relief directly from HMRC. Employees will get tax relief based on their highest tax rate. For example, if they pay the 20% basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week, they will get £1.20 per week in tax relief (20% of £6). Employees can claim more than the quoted amount but will need to provide evidence to HMRC. HMRC will accept backdated claims for up to 4 years. 

These tax reliefs are available to anyone who has been asked to work from home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week including working from home because of coronavirus.

Self-certified sick notes

The statutory sick pay rules were temporarily amended on 17 December 2021. The amendment allows employees to self-certify for a period of 28 days, in place of the normal 7 days. This measure has been put in place to help free up capacity in the NHS and allow GPs to spend more time focusing on the coronavirus booster rollout as well as other impacts brought on by the latest Omicron fuelled coronavirus wave.

The arrangements will remain in place for all absences that begin on or before 26 January 2022. The arrangements also apply retrospectively for any continuing periods of absence which started between 10 and 17 December 2021.  The self-certification period is set to return to seven days for any absences beginning on or after 27 January 2022. GPs will continue to be required to supply medical evidence known as, fit notes, for periods of absence exceeding 28 days.

The current rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks. To qualify for SSP, an employee must meet the necessary eligibility requirements. Employers cannot pay less than the SSP but may pay more if they have a sick pay scheme.

Reminder of Statutory Sick Pay pay-back scheme

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for small and medium-sized businesses and employers, enables them to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The online service closed for new claims after 30 September 2021.

However, following the new Omicron wave, the online claims service is to be reintroduced from mid-January. The government announced before the Christmas break that firms will be re-eligible for the scheme from 21 December 2021 and will be able to make claims retrospectively once the claims service is relaunched.

The scheme covers up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. Employers are eligible for the scheme if their business is UK based, small or medium-sized and employs fewer than 250 employees. Under the scheme, the Government will cover the cost of SSP for Covid-related absences qualifying employers across the UK.

Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online or a ‘shielding note’ / letter from their doctor or health authority advising them to shield because they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

Claiming tax relief for working from home

Employees working from home may be able to claim tax relief for certain home-related bills they pay that are related to your work. 

Employers may reimburse employees for the additional household expenses incurred through regularly working at home. The relief covers expenses such as business telephone calls or heating and lighting costs for the room in which you are working. Expenses that are for both for private and business use (such as broadband) cannot be claimed. Employees may also be able to claim tax relief on equipment they have bought, such as a laptop, chair or mobile phone.

Employers can pay up to £6 per week (or £26 a month for employees paid monthly) to cover an employee’s additional costs if they have to work from home. Employees do not need to keep any specific records if they receive this fixed amount. 

If the expenses or allowances are not paid by the employer, then the employee can claim tax relief directly from HMRC. Employees will get tax relief based on their highest tax rate. For example, if they pay the 20% basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week, they will get £1.20 per week in tax relief (20% of £6). Employees can claim more than the quoted amount but will need to provide evidence to HMRC. HMRC will accept backdated claims for up to 4 years. 

These tax reliefs are available to anyone who has been asked to work from home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week including working from home because of coronavirus.

Vehicle benefit charges from April 2022

The vehicle benefit charges were updated following the Chancellor's Budget speech. Where employees are provided with fuel for their own private use by their employers, the car fuel benefit charge is applicable. The fuel benefit charge is determined by reference to the CO2 rating of the car, applied to a fixed amount. The car fuel benefit charge will increase in 2022-23 to £25,300 (from £24,600). The fuel benefit is not applicable when the employee pays for all their private fuel.

The standard benefit charge for private use of a company van will increase to £3,600 (from £3,500). A company van is defined as ‘a van made available to an employee by reason of their employment’. There is an additional benefit charge for fuel when a van has significant private use. The limit will increase in 2022-23 to £688 (from £669). If private use of the van is insignificant then no benefit will apply.

Since 6 April 2021, the van benefit charge has been reduced to zero for vans that produce zero carbon emissions. This measure supports the governments climate change agenda by encouraging the uptake up of vans that emit zero carbon emissions.

Autumn Budget 2021 – Minimum Wage increases

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak confirmed that the government has accepted in full the proposals of the Low Pay Commission for increasing minimum wage rates from 1 April 2022. This puts the government back on track to reach their minimum wage target of two-thirds of median earnings by 2024.

The new National Living Wage (NLW) rate of £9.50 will come into effect on 1 April 2022 and represents an increase of 59p or 6.6%. The NLW is the minimum hourly rate that must be paid to those aged 23 or over. The threshold is expected to further reduce to 21 by 2024. The increase represents a pay rise of over £1,000 for someone working full-time and earning the NLW.

The hourly rate of the NMW (for 21-22 year olds) will increase to £9.18 (a rise of 82p or 9.8%). This increase narrows the gap with the NLW and leaving this age group on course to receive the full NLW by 2024.

The rates for 18-20 year olds will increase to £6.83 (a rise of 27p) and the rate for workers above the school leaving age but under 18 will increase to £4.81 (a rise of 19p). The NMW rate for apprentices will increase by 51p to £4.81.

Tax and termination payments

The tax treatment of termination payments has changed significantly over recent years. The changes have aligned the rules for tax and secondary National Insurance contributions (employer (NICs)) by making an employer liable to pay NICs on termination payments they make to their employees. An employer is required to pay NICs on any part of a termination payment that exceeds the £30,000 threshold.

In addition, all payments in lieu of notice (PILONs) are both taxable and subject to Class 1 NICs. The legislation requires the employer to identify the amount of basic pay that the employee would have received if they had worked their notice period, even if the employee leaves the employment part way through their notice period. The amount is treated as earnings and not subject to the £30,000 Income Tax exemption. All other termination payments are included within the scope of the £30,000 termination payments exemption.

It is expected that any employer NICs due on termination payments will be collected in 'real-time', as part of the employer’s standard weekly or monthly payroll returns and remittances to HMRC.

£500 million Plan for Jobs Expansion

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a £500 million expansion of the Plan for Jobs as part of his speech delivered to the party faithful at the Tory annual conference in Manchester. The money will be used to help hundreds of thousands of people leaving the furlough scheme as well as the unemployed over the age of 50 to get back to work.

It was also announced that there will be more help for those earning the lowest wages with increased support for workers on Universal Credit from next April. This will focus on helping the lower paid to progress their careers. 

The Chancellor said:

'At the start of this crisis I made a promise to do whatever it takes, and I’m ready to double down on that promise now as we come out of this crisis. The job is not done yet and I want to make sure our economy is fit for the future and that means providing the support and skills people need to get into work and get on in life.'

It was also announced that the Kickstart scheme is being extended to March 2022. The Scheme allows employers to offer young people on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment state-subsidised work placements for six months. The government is also extending its £3,000 incentive payment for every apprentice a business hires up until 31 January 2022.

Reminder for reporting expenses and benefits for 2020-21

The deadline for submitting the 2020-21 forms P11D, P11D(b) and P9D is 6 July 2021. Employees must also be provided with a copy of the information relating to them on these forms by the same date.

P11D forms are used to provide information to HMRC on all Benefits in Kind (BiKs), including those under the Optional Remuneration Arrangements (OpRAs) unless the employer has registered to payroll benefits. This is known as payrolling and removes the requirement to complete a P11D for the selected benefits. However, a P11D(b) is still required for Class 1A National Insurance payments regardless of whether the benefits are being reported via P11D or payrolled.

Where no benefits were provided during 2020-21 and a form P11D(b) or P11D(b) reminder is received, employers can either submit a 'nil' return or notify HMRC online that no return is required. Employers should ensure that they complete their P11D accurately, including all the details of cars and loans provided. There are penalties for late filing of returns.

Employers pay Class 1A National Insurance contributions on most benefits. If you provided taxable benefits to staff or directors your business is likely to have a Class 1A employers’ NIC liability. The deadline for paying class 1A NICs is 22 July 2021 (or 19 July if paying by cheque).

In addition, any tax or National Insurance due for 2020-21 under a PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA) needs to be paid electronically to clear into HMRC’s bank account by 22 October 2021 (19 October 2021 for payments by cheque).

Taxable benefit charge – returning office equipment

A taxable benefit charge can apply when employees return office equipment they used to work from home. There was a significant rise in the provision of office equipment to employees working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualifying home office equipment is that deemed necessary for an employee to work from home and can, for example, include a laptop, mobile phone, office desk and chair and other necessary computer accessories such as webcams.

Taxable benefit charges are as follows:

  • If you supplied your employees with office equipment so they could work from home, and you did not transfer ownership, there is no tax charge when they return the equipment to you.
  • If you transfer the ownership of home office equipment to an employee at any stage of their employment, a benefit charge generally arises on the market value of the equipment at the time of the transfer, less any amount made good by the employee.
  • If your employee has agreed to purchase home office equipment for use whilst working at home due to COVID-19 and you reimburse the exact expense, unless you have specified that your employee must transfer ownership to you, the ownership of the equipment rests with your employee. There is no benefit charge on the reimbursement.
  • There is also no benefit charge if you allow your employee to keep the equipment as it is something that they already own.