Due to Coronavirus, many people have had to work from home through the best part of 2020, and this is likely to carry into 2021. According to Forbes, the working from home trend is likely to continue both permanently or semi-permanently after lockdown is over for many companies. One lesson learned from this all is that many can work perfectly fine without ever coming into the office!
If working from home in the UK carries on past 2021, it helps to understand all possible benefits, expenses, and insurance caveats to ensure you do not get caught out later down the road.
Expenses that you can claim
Increased Heating, Electricity, and Water Usage
To cover the expenses of working from home, you may claim up to £6 a week for extra heating, electricity, and water bill costs through income tax relief. Note, this can only be claimed if you are required to work from home, both permanent and semi-permanent.
You can make the claim through one of two ways:
- You can claim it as a non-taxable benefit through your employer. Under this claim, you will be paid directly to your bank account without tax being deducted. This may cause a hindrance for many small businesses, therefore the other option may be preferable
- You can also claim through HMRC on the Government Gateway by creating an account then filling out the online P87 form.
Home office equipment
Like myself, many employees working from home have had to purchase some home office equipment, where you may be exempt from paying tax and national insurance on many items. The items included under this legislation are those deemed necessary for the employees to work at their home efficiently and ergonomically, such as a desk, office chair, or a laptop.
The exemptions are for newly purchased home office equipment and are set to currently last until the end of the current tax year, up to 5 April 2021. You can do this through your employer who will purchase the items for you then take them out of your paycheque, either monthly or all at once, without any tax. If you work for a large organization, it might also be worth checking with HR if they can borrow any equipment from the office; I have done this and have received a monitor, laptop, and a desk chair without paying a penny!
Access to work scheme
Under the UK Government’s access to work scheme, you can apply for a grant worth up to £60,000 if you have a disability, mental, or physical health difficulties. Before the pandemic, this grant was used to help employees in the office but has now been extended to those working from home.
You can use this for purchasing specialist equipment to help transform your home into an ergonomic and effective place of work. This includes remote video interpreting, a screen reader, “adaptations or support worker services to help you do things like answer the phone or go to meetings”. This grant can also be used to cover various public transport and taxi fares, too.
When working from home, it is essential to have a reliable broadband connection. However, where a large portion of the population is working from home, there is an increased strain on the networks. If you live in shared accommodation with others also working from home and sharing the same connection, it is likely that the usage is much higher than others; you may want to consider upgrading your broadband package to accommodate for this.
If you were paying for an internet connection before you started working from home, then this is classed as an existing expense and cannot be reimbursed tax-free. However, if you had to install a new line, you can claim this back through the Gov.
Should you need to upgrade your line, you should check with your company’s HR department to see if they can offer you any kind of discount or reimbursement.
Insurance need to knows
Naturally, due to the worldwide lockdown, we are spending much less time commuting to work, as well as recreationally. You may have found yourself thinking about potential refunds for your car insurance payments and quite rightly so! Our research has found that several companies, such as DirectLine and Admiral, have offered and are still offering a partial refund to their customers who have/ are not driving their car.
If you know for a fact that you will not be using your car for a while and have access to your own parking space, you should consider applying for a Statutory Off Road Notification. You will then not need to pay insurance or tax on the car until you want to start driving again.
If you are working from home, you should let your home insurance provider (if you have home insurance know about the change of everyday use to your property. Standard insurance policies do not typically provide adequate cover if you work from home. Should an accident happen under a normal policy, the likelihood of a payout is low.
However, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) members have confirmed that office-based workers who have to work from home due to Coronavirus do not need to update or extend their coverage and will be covered as standard.