With current day realities manifesting in ever increasing distances required to be travelled to get to an office, traffic congestion, etc. more and more employers are opting to give their employees the option of working from home. The proliferation of “home offices” has surfaced in dramatic fashion in recent times. It is therefore only natural that we have been experiencing an increased number of queries related to whether expenditure linked to home offices are tax deductible. With home office expenditure, we refer here specifically to those costs linked to occupying a specific space in a home for purposes of earning an income. This includes typically rent, interest paid on a bond, repairs, maintenance and other related costs.
Limitations to deductions for tax purposes in relation to home office expenditure is specifically dealt with by section 23(b) of the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962. In essence it determines that home office expenditure is not deductible save in very strict circumstances, being:
• where the part of the home used is used exclusively and regularly used for purposes of the taxpayer’s trade; and
• on condition that the space so used must also have been specifically equipped for this purpose.
Home office expenditure will moreover not be deductible where the trade exercised involves employment or the holding of an office (such as a director for example), unless either:
• the income earned is in the form of commission or any similar type of variable payment, and on condition that the duties of employment or office held are performed primarily outside of an office environment provided by an employer; or
• the employment/office duties viewed holistically are mainly performed in the designated part of the home.
If either of the above two exceptions are met, home office expenditure will be deductible irrespective thereof that the taxpayer is an employee or the holder of a specific office. It is noted that section 23(m)(iv) in this regard also does not operate to limit deductions of home office expenditure more than is already the case in terms of section 23(b). (Section 23(m) ordinarily operates as the onerous provision severely limiting the tax deductions available to salaried individuals.)
As a final comment it should be pointed out that the above tests linked to whether home office expenditure is deductible or not all involves objective tests. SARS is also known to be extremely strict in its application of section 23(b). The Tax Administration Act, 28 of 2011, by virtue of section 102 provides that the burden of proof for showing that a deduction should be allowed rests on the taxpayer. SARS is therefore under no obligation to disprove any of the requirements necessary to qualify for home office expenditure. Rather, the taxpayer should be able to show that the space in question is exclusively and regularly used for business purposes and that it has been specifically equipped therefor. It should further illustrate that income earned comprises mainly a variable form of compensation and that no other space is available to the taxpayer, or that the services are performed mainly from the designated space at home.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)