Employees incur expenses that are inherent in the performance of their duties in their relationship with an employer. Accordingly, due to their nature, such expenses are to be borne by the employer. The employer, i.e. the company, can ask the Ruling Office (Dienst Voorafgaande Beslissingen/Service des Décisions Anticipées) for confirmation that the lump sum allowances that will be paid as reimbursement for such expenses will not be subject to personal income taxation at the level of its employees. Such allowances mainly concern compensation for costs relating to the (company) car, costs incurred in representing the company and costs incurred in organising and using a workspace in the private home (“home office”). The latter cost item relates to (but is not limited to) electricity, heating, office supplies and office furniture.
If work from home is done in a structured manner and is governed by a homeworking policy, an amount of up to EUR 126.94 per month can be granted free from social security contributions and taxes as costs to be properly borne by the employer (kosten eigen aan de werkgever/frais propres à l’employeur).
As a measure to fight the Covid-19 virus, the Belgian national government has requested employers to organise work in such a manner as to allow the largest number possible of workers to telework continuously. Most employers encourage their people to apply this measure. Consequently, in the coming weeks, occasional telework (which, in principle, does not confer a “right” to a tax-free allowance) will become structural homework for many employees.
To cater for the above situation, the Rulings Office has taken the initiative to establish a “Fast Track” application procedure. Under this procedure, approval of payment of an expense allowance of EUR 126.94/month for a home office can be obtained fast via a shortened application form that you can find on the website of the Ruling Office.
- The above is a temporary measure taken in light of the measures announced by the national government as part of the fight against the COVID19 virus.
In other words: the grant of the amount has to be ended as soon as the emergency measures are terminated.
- Exceptionally, no teleworking policy (or other formalities or special evidence as justification) is required to implement the regime for this allowance.
- Of course, double use is prohibited, meaning that the relevant costs cannot be compensated or offset in any other manner.
- An application as referred to above does not alter the validity or terms and conditions of your ongoing ruling.
The only change to your ongoing ruling is the temporary increase in the costs of the home office that you may apply.
- Also if, at this date, you have not obtained an advance decision (“ruling”) on the matter concerned here, you may make use of this procedure.
Even if the Belgian national social security office (RSZ/ONNS) has not yet adopted an official position on this point, it is our view that, given the current Covid-19 context, also the RSZ/ONNS is most likely to consider this expense allowance as a reimbursement of costs free from social security contributions. As a matter of fact, irrespective of the current Covid-19 context, the administrative instructions of the RSZ/ ONNS already provide for payment of an expense allowance of EUR 126.94 EUR/month for employees who perform part of their working hours from home in a structured manner and on a regular basis and for that reason have to set up their own workspace at home. Since many employees are currently teleworking for a fixed period, it is our view that, telework performed in connection with the Covid-19 virus meets the definition of “structural telework”.
Alternatively, the RSZ/ONSS also accepts that an employer could grant a (higher) cost allowance for homework equal to 10% of the gross salary, whereby the gross salary is however capped to the part of the gross salary related to the homework. However, where employees now perform 100% of their working time at home during the Covid-19 measures, this could result in high(er) cost allowances. The question rises whether the RSZ/ONNS will accept, given the circumstances, such high(er) amounts to be granted free from social security contributions.
We are discussing these positions and any related formalities with the RSZ/ONSS and will inform you once we have been informed of the official position.
Finally, please note that, from a strictly legal perspective, an employer cannot oblige employees to telework. In the current context, with the government urging people to work from home, it might be fair to state, however, that the employer, who is subject to the legal obligation to safeguard a healthy place of work for its employees, can nonetheless ‘oblige’ its employees, to a certain extent, to work from home (depending on the practical circumstances).
Your PwC contact, together with the PwC expert matter team is available to discuss this exceptional FAST TRACK procedure and all of its practical modalities with you.