Taxes For Members

Reader question: Can I deduct working-from-home costs from my Swiss taxes?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 21 Feb, 2022 Updated Mon 21 Feb 2022 10:49 CEST
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Working from home is increasingly popular in Switzerland - but what can you claim back on tax? Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

Due to Covid, working from home has been mandatory for part of the previous tax year. Does this mean you can deduct household expenses?

Many employees in Switzerland have been working from home since the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

In fact, working from home was for a period of time made mandatory in Switzerland. In early 2022 this was changed to a recommendation, while from February 17th the recommendation to work from home was removed completely. 

More information about the rules of mandatory working from home can be found at the following link. 

READ MORE: What are the rules of Switzerland’s new working from home obligation? 

While the obligation may have been lifted, with the tax filing deadline on March 31st, the question of what household expenses can be legitimately deducted remain pertinent. 

Let’s say you had to purchase a new computer or another piece or equipment in order to set up your home office.

Or you incurred other expenses related to home work, such as cost of meals.

Can these be deducted? Here's what you need to know. 

Can you deduct working-from-home costs from your taxes?

The specific answer depends on where you live, as rules may vary in each canton, according to a report by Switzerland's SRF public broadcaster. 

Generally speaking, most cantons will allow deduction for professional costs such as work-related travel costs, as though the employee had driven to the office every day.

The same applies to commuters who had purchased tickets for public transportation before the home work obligation went into effect. However, the amount of the deductions varies greatly from canton to canton.

READ MORE: How the pandemic has triggered a boom in home working jobs in Switzerland

And the actual guidelines vary and can be quite confusing.

For instance, some cantons allow meal and commuting expenses to be deducted only when actual costs are incurred, while others permit employees working from home to claim full meal and commuting deductions, whether or not they have actually worked remotely.

What about rent, electricity and other costs? 

The amount of time you worked from home will also be relevant, with tax advisors saying a minimum of three days per week should be worked from home in order to justify deductions. 

There are also different rules regarding home office costs — some cantons don’t accept these costs as a deduction, while others allow to deduct the portion of the rent for the part of the house used exclusively for working.

Important here is that you have a separate room or area which is deemed to be an office. This needs to be set up as an office or a study and needs to be separate from the bedroom or living quarters. 

The rent for this space can then be deducted, which will be calculated according to the square meterage of the office compared with the overall square meterage of the home. 

Speaking with Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes, Swiss tax expert Markus Stoll said even a guest room with a sofa or bed may not be sufficiently to be deemed an office. 

Costs for meals may also be deducted, although this is usually lower than what would be included in travel costs. 

Keep in mind that this is subject to cantonal differences. In Zurich, for instance, employees working from home are entitled to claim full meal expenses

In yet other cases, home office costs are covered by the 3 percent lump-sum deduction that is allowed for professional expenses.

Most of the cantonal tax offices have published information on the special Covid-related regulations on their websites. 

READ MORE: Switzerland's strangest taxes - and what happens if you don't pay them

What if I buy stuff so that I can work from home?

Unfortunately for most employees who worked from home, they will have to foot the bill for equipment bought to work from home - and will not be able to deduct most of it. 

Despite requiring employees to work from home, the Swiss government said companies were under no obligation to cover the costs of equipment or other technology, i.e. printers, computers etc. 

In most cantons, the costs of buying these items will also not be tax deductible, notes Swiss tax advisors Accurity

What about Covid-related expenses?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons. 

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government - for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs - cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

Please note: This report is intended as a guide only and should not take the place of financial advice from a qualified tax advisor. 

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The Local 2022/02/21 10:49

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