COVID-19 and working from home. Some feel strongly about it, others not so much. The CRA has released guidance on the home office expenses deduction that employees may claim on their 2020 personal income tax return (T1) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

How does it work? Read on to find out, and feel free to reach out to your Elevate by Welch professional to learn more and ensure you optimize your 2020 tax return. 

Eligibility

To claim a home office expenses deduction, you must meet all of the criteria:

The CRA has also published a number of resources to assist both employees and employers, including

Two available options

If you meet the eligibility criteria, you have two options to calculate the deduction for home office expenses:

Employers may suggest a method for their employees. It is the employees who have the ultimate authority to choose which method to use.

The CRA has designed a calculator (specifically to assist with the calculation of eligible home office expenses).

Temporary flat rate method

What is it?

If you worked more than 50% of the time from home for a period of at least four consecutive weeks in 2020 due to COVID-19, you can claim $2 for each day that you worked at home up to a maximum of $400 (200 working days) per individual.

If working at home and claiming home office expenses was the norm for you pre-COVID-19, you cannot use the temporary flat rate method to complete your 2020 claim. 

What counts as a work day?

Days you worked full-time hours, overtime-hours or part-time hours from home.

Days that cannot be counted: days off, vacation days, sick leave days, other paid or unpaid leave of absence.

Do I need from my employer a certified Form T2200 Declaration of Conditions of Employment or Form T2200S Declaration of Conditions of Employment for Working at Home Due to COVID-19?

No.

Do I need to retain documents in support of my claim?

No.

How to claim?

You would need to complete the “Options 1 – Temporary flat rate method” section on Form T777S Statement of Employment Expenses for Working at Home Due to COVID-19.

Is the deduction calculated by the individual or by the household?

Each employee working from home who meets the eligibility requirements can use the temporary flat rate method to calculate his/her deduction. If there are more than one eligible employee working at home in the same household, each can choose his/her method to calculate the deduction.

What types of expenses are covered by the $2 flat daily rate?

The temporary flat rate method is used to claim home office expenses that you paid like rent, electricity and home internet access fees, as well as office supplies like pens and paper, and cell phone minutes.

Under this method, you cannot claim any other type of work-space-in-the-home-expenses,  home office expenses or costs for items purchased of a capital nature. 

Can I claim any other employment expenses?

No, you cannot claim any other employment expenses such as allowable motor vehicle expenses, parking, travelling expenses, etc. 

Is the up-to-$400 a credit or a deduction?

Home office expenses can be claimed as a deduction on an employee’s personal income tax return. A deduction reduces the amount of income they pay tax on, so it reduces their overall income tax liability.

Will the temporary flat rate method be extended past 2020?

No. The temporary flat rate method only applies to the 2020 tax year.

Detailed method

What is it?

If you meet all of the criteria listed above under the “Eligibility” section, you may use the detailed method or the existing method to deduct home office expenses. 

Do I need a certified Form T2200S or Form T2200 from my employer?

Yes.  

Form T2200S is a new simplified form for employers to complete and sign for employees who meet the eligibility requirements and who choose to use the detailed method.

If an employee pays for other employment expenses, such as allowable motor vehicle expenses, parking, travelling expenses, the employer must complete the traditional Form T2200.

For 2020 only, the CRA will accept an employer’s electronic signature on Form T2200S or Form T2200.

Do I need to retain documents in support of my claim?

Yes. Generally, you must keep all required records and supporting documentation for a period of six years from the end of the last tax year they relate to.

How to claim?

You can claim the actual working-at-home eligible expenses you paid that are supported by documents. Eligible expenses will be detailed out in the “Options 2 – Detailed method” section on Form T777S Statement of Employment Expenses for Working at Home Due to COVID-19.

How to determine the employment use of work space?

Whether you work in a spare room exclusively used as your work space at home, or at the dining table sometimes or at the kitchen table other times, there are several factors to consider when calculating the employment use of the work space at home, for example:

The CRA may accept a method of calculation other than one based on square meters (feet), as long as you are able to demonstrate to the CRA that your calculated percentage of use is reasonable.

What are eligible expenses?

Commonly seen eligible work-space-in-the-home expenses and other home office expenses include:

The CRA has expanded the list of eligible expenses that can be claimed to include home internet access fees.

Note that salaried employees cannot include the expenses paid pertinent to home insurance, property taxes and mortgage payments (principal and interest) in calculating the home office expenses.

Can I claim any other employment expenses?

If you are eligible to deduct home office expenses by meeting the requirements listed in the “Eligibility” section above, you would use T2200S and T777S forms to complete the claim. You cannot claim other employment expenses such as allowable motor vehicle expenses, parking, travelling expenses, etc. 

If you are eligible to deduct home office expenses by applying the traditional criteria, which are outlined in the CRA Guide T4044 Employment Expenses, you would use T2200 and T777 forms to complete the claim. You can claim other employment expenses such as allowable motor vehicle expenses, parking, travelling expenses, etc.   

Home Office Equipment up to $500

The CRA has expanded its previous position (2020- 0845431C6 (F)) on employer reimbursement of personal computer equipment to include home office equipment. In the COVID-19 context, the CRA will not consider an employee to have received a taxable benefit where their employer pays for or reimburses up to $500 of computer or home office equipment that enables the employee to carry out their employment duties by working at home. To be treated as a non-taxable benefit, the employee must submit receipts to the employer. The CRA indicates that home office equipment would include items such as desks or chairs.

Jessica Zhang-Chapman, CPA, CGA, CIA, of Welch LLP illustrates it perfectly with a great example: 

“ For example, if an employee purchased a second computer monitor for $300 plus an adjustable desk for $400, and the employee submitted receipts in support of the purchases, an employer can reimburse the employee up to $500 without the employee receiving a taxable benefit under the CRA administrative policy in the COVID-19 context. If the employer reimburses the full $700 for the purchases, the amount over $500 (that is, the $200) must be included in the employee’s income as a taxable benefit”

Parsing through tax guidance can be daunting. If you are unsure of where to start, need help moving it along, or want to entrust us with your personal taxes, please reach out to us at sduffy@welchllp.com

In the business world it’s not unusual for entrepreneurs and owners to manage their own business bookkeeping and accounting. The reasons for doing so are relatively simple. Many business owners believe the DIY approach saves them money, or that it keeps them closer to the business and therefore more informed.

This isn’t necessarily true. And, as we move into a second year of business overshadowed by COVID-19, handling your business bookkeeping in-house may actually cost you money and further separate you from your work. Even medium and large-sized companies with dedicated administrative and accounting personnel may want to consider bringing in a little extra help.

Here’s why you should consider hiring a cloud-based bookkeeper in 2021.

You might miss out on government subsidies and credits

To anyone who’s tried to decipher the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website this year, we salute you. The reality is that navigating the ins and outs of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), along with the various loans and tax credits available, has been a challenge for many businesses—to say the least!

The job of professional bookkeepers and accountants is to stay current so that they can apply their knowledge to elevate your business. As we head into 2021, a year of uncertainty but also of recovery, there will undoubtedly be further policy adjustments made to bolster the economy. A qualified bookkeeper with a leave-no-stone-unturned mentality can evaluate your operations and identify which subsidies and tax credits are relevant to your business. They can also flag new opportunities as they arise, enabling you to act quickly and proactively.

A BOOKKEEPER CAN:

You might claim something your business doesn’t qualify for

Even if you’re financially savvy (or have a member of staff who is) chances are you aren’t dedicating 100% of your time to tracking shifts in government assistance and tax policy. At best, this means you could be missing out on subsidies, tax credits, or other forms of assistance that could help your business. At worst, you may be receiving assistance that you will have to pay back down the road.

Bookkeepers who are CPA certified, or who work closely with CPA-certified accountants, can help that you’re colouring within the lines and have the necessary documentation to prove it. And regardless of how many times a policy shifts, a bookkeeper truly worth their salt will help

you to track, organize, and maintain the documentation required to ensure that your business is and remains CRA compliant.

A BOOKKEEPER CAN:

Your bookkeeping may need to pivot as much as your business has

Plenty of businesses have pivoted their operations this year. Consider an example. Let’s say you’re a brick and mortal retail operation. You’re popular, but being too small to compete with the likes of Amazon you’ve shied away from e-commerce in the past. The pandemic pushed you to launch a 100% contactless online purchase and delivery option in order to stay in business—and it’s working. So much that you plan to maintain an e-commerce platform indefinitely. We couldn’t be happier for you! But if you’ve been brick and mortar for a long time, chances are your old bookkeeping system just isn’t going to cut it in 2021.

You need integrated and automated systems that track, cost, and synchronize sales across your in-store and online inventory, not to mention an online payment system that syncs seamlessly with a top-notch bookkeeping/accounting software. And the latter ideally needs to automate sales orders, invoices, receipts, etc. Have you even taken a look at your new expenses evaluated the old ones, and examined your claims potential? It’s a lot, we know, but a bookkeeper well-versed in cloud-based bookkeeping and accounting can help you establish the right infrastructure to support your newly evolved business.

YOUR BOOKEEPER CAN:

You need a better budget and financial forecast

None of us were prepared for the impacts of COVID-19, but the experience of the pandemic has presented an opportunity for business owners (aided by their bookkeeper and accountant!) to create a better plan for tomorrow. Your bookkeeper can help you to establish an operating budget that accounts for the payback of loans, the eventual cut-off of government subsidies, the replenishment of reserve savings, and much, much more.

Moreover that tidy, up-to-date, detailed, and accurate ledger your bookkeeper maintains will make it far easier for an accountant to offer you the high-level financial advice and performance data you need to make informed business decisions. Your bookkeeper can also help you to develop tools and tracking systems that tabulate everything from day-to-day transactions to the relative value and profitability of your products and services (useful when evaluating which COVID pivots to keep over the long term).

IN 2021 YOUR BOOKEEPER CAN:

You don’t need the stress—your time is better spent elsewhere

Administration, bookkeeping, and accounting inevitably take up far more time than most business owners anticipate (as much as one day a week or more). We have no doubt that you’re capable of wearing many hats (and masterfully, we might add), but the hat you wear best is not a green eyeshade. Whether you’re managing the ledger alone or assisting an in-house bookkeeper or accountant, you must come to accept this truth:

In 2021, your time will be better spent growing your business and exploring the new opportunities and potential that COVID pivots and a post-COVID era provide. The creative inspirations, networking connections, and strides in business development you can make will far outweight the cost of paying a bookkeeper to handle the nitty gritty.

For you, reconciling accounts and issuing payroll is an added stressor, and if you fall behind, well, let’s just say your staff don’t need the stress either. A qualified bookkeeper can support you and your staff by ensuring that the ship runs smoothly. They can help existing administrative staff who may be out of their depth when it comes to keeping up with COVID-related policy changes. They can also help streamline and even automate processes like payroll to ensure that all employee benefits and subsidies are properly accounted for and that your obligations are met.

IN 2021 YOUR BOOKKEEPER CAN:

The new world is digital, and your bookkeeping can be too

COVID-19 work-from-home edicts were easy to adapt to for those of us who’d already been working in cloud-based accounting (or any cloud-based, digitally nomadic industry). But for those businesses whose operations, record-keeping, and administrative interactions were largely conducted in person or on paper, it was a substantial obstacle to overcome.

If you got your digital feet proverbially wet in 2020 - It’s time for the canon ball! Cloud-based accounting apps and software make it possible for you to outsource your business bookkeeping to skilled bookkeeping and accounting professionals. Moreover, a well-designed and fully integrated digital financial bookkeeping and accounting infrastructure gives you 24/7 access to the most up-to-date and accurate financial data on your business. And that data is accessible anytime, anywhere.

Never before have business owners had so much information at their fingertips. It’s time to take advantage. The services of many outsourced, cloud-based bookkeeping and accounting firms, like Elevate by Welch LLP, allow you to customize the level of service and input you require, enabling you to seamlessly integrate cloud bookkeeping and cloud accounting solutions into your business.

If you would like to learn more about how cloud-based bookkeeping and accounting services can help elevate your business in 2021, contact Sean at sduffy@elevatebywelchllp.com

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