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Belgium: Tax guidance regarding working from home after the pandemic (COVID-19)

Belgium: Tax guidance regarding working from home

The Belgian tax administration issued a circular (2021 / C / 20, effective 1 March 2021) as guidance regarding employees that will continue to telecommute post-COVID-19.

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The circular concerns teleworking organized within the framework of normal working days and therefore excludes employees who only work from home outside normal working hours (for instance, only evenings or weekends). The circular will not apply to company directors or to workers subject to special regimes, such as foreign managers or employees working under a "salary split" agreement. For certainty, a request for an advance ruling may be submitted.

Flat-rate office allowance

An employer can grant a flat-rate indemnity of up to €129.48 per month to employees who work from home on a structural and regular basis. For the second quarter of 2021, this amount is temporarily increased to a maximum of €144.31. This amount is not to be reduced for part-time work.

What is new is that a distinction as to the amount of the office allowance granted can now be made on the basis of the category of staff to which the employee belongs. However, the employer must provide a justification explaining why a higher or lower lump-sum compensation is granted to a particular category.

In addition, the circular describes what is meant by "structural and regular work from home." The basic rule is that there must be at least five days of working from home per month. In principle, the fixed allowance cannot be granted (not even on a pro rata basis) if there is no structural and regular teleworking.

The circular details what the flat-rate office allowance covers. In brief, these are expenses incurred in the course of working from home, with the exception of the costs related to the purchase of office furniture and computer equipment. In the past, costs related to the acquisition of office furniture were included in the lump-sum compensation. The flat-rate indemnity can no longer apply if any of the office expenses, such as ink cartridges or electricity, are already subject to reimbursement.

Reimbursement of materials for home work

The tax administration confirmed that it is possible for employers to reimburse for the following expenses in addition to the flat-rate office allowance:

  • An office chair
  • An office table
  • An office cupboard
  • A functional desk lamp
  • A second computer screen
  • A printer and / or a scanner
  • A keyboard
  • A mouse or a touchpad
  • A telephone headset
  • Specific equipment that people with a disability need to be able to work easily with a PC

An important condition applies to the office chair, office table, mouse and touchpad; amounts for these items can only be reimbursed if they are also made available to the employee under normal circumstances at the place of work. The circular specifies, for example, that an expensive designer desk lamp or a large computer screen intended for "gaming" does not fall within the scope of the guidance. Also, the expense for the equipment can only be reimbursed if there are actual supporting documents, and the acquisition must be necessary to be able to exercise the professional activity at home in a normal way. The employee will always have to provide an invoice to the employer for the reimbursement.

The circular lists what is the normal useful life for certain appliances and furniture in order to avoid any abuse in the application of the measure. 

Provision of equipment for working from home

The circular refers to the same list of equipment and the same conditions for reimbursement of office equipment as well as for the provision of such office equipment itself. The provision of equipment by the employer may have advantages, such as:

  • It may be easier for the employee.
  • The employer generally may benefit from attractive reductions or discounts.
  • It is possible to include this benefit in a cafeteria plan, so that the provision of equipment remains “budget neutral” for the employer.

No benefits-in-kind are to be considered with regard to the provision of equipment itself. Therefore, no withholding tax or social security is due (unless the goods made available unreasonably exceed the needs of working at home). If the employee leaves the employment position and has permission to keep the equipment, the employee will then be taxed on a benefit-in-kind equivalent of the equipment’s residual value. 

Lump-sum compensation for professional use of other equipment

The circular also lists some other flat-rate indemnities, including:

  • The current internet package of €20 per month
  • A new flat-rate allowance of €20 per month for the use of the private computer for professional purposes within the framework of teleworking
  • A new flat-rate allowance of €5 per accessory (such as a screen or printer) used for professional activity, with a maximum of €10 per month

All these allowances are considered as reimbursements of costs specific to the employer, made in the context of working from home and must now also be mentioned on the employee sheet 281.10.

KPMG observation

This circular provides clear instructions for reimbursement and the provision of materials for teleworking. It is the responsibility of employers to correctly implement the requirements of the circular and to determine that employees can work ergonomically from their homes.

Read a March 2021 report (French) prepared by the KPMG member firm in Belgium 

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