Professional expense deductions in times of corona - What is possible?

The corona pandemic has led to significant changes in many people's work lives. Because commutes to work and cantine meals have been replaced by home office and home-cooked food, the question arises as to which professional expense deductions are possible in this year's tax return. The cantons answer this question differently.

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Corona professional expense deductions

As part of the measures to combat the corona pandemic, employees have been encouraged to work from home whenever possible. This has led to significant changes in the daily working lives of many people. On the one hand, commutes to work and canteen meals have been eliminated, while on the other hand, a private office had to be set up and meals needed to be cooked by the employees themselves. Now what impacts do these changes have on the deduction of professional expenses in the tax return of employees?

Different solutions in the cantons

The answer to the above question varies from canton to canton. A majority of cantons have decided to allow the usual professional expense deductions, as they would have been possible without the corona measures, to be deducted. Said approach is intended to simplify the completion of the the tax return. Other cantons however allow for special deductions for the use of a private study (home office), which in return exclude the normal professional expense deductions. In addition, in some cantones it is possible this year to deduct the costs for the use of a private vehicle without needing to prove that the use of public transport is unreasonable.

Corona deductions, this is how it works!

To illustrate the above mentioned options, here is how the cantons of Basel-Stadt, Berne and Zurich handle the situation.

Canton Basel-Stadt

The canton of Basel-Stadt allows deductions for the use of a private study under certain circumstances. This is the case if the taxpayer regularly has to carry out a substantial part of the professional work from home, the employer does not provide suitable premises and the study is a separate room that is mainly used for professional purposes.

However, it is also permissible and generally easier to deduct the costs that would have occurred if the work had been carried out at the usual workplace.

Exceptionally, expenses for the use of a private vehicle (car) may be claimed without having to prove that the use of public transport is not possible.

Childcare costs may be claimed in the usual amount, provided the legal conditions are met.

Canton of Berne

In order to take account of special circumstances, the canton of Berne has specified the practice for granting a travel expense deduction.

Taxpayers who use public transport to commute to work may claim the costs actually incurred. Annual season tickets that could not be used as planned due to the corona measures can be deducted in full. Taxpayers who travelled to work by car between March 1 and December 31, 2020 may deduct the expenses for the corresponding journeys. The canton waived the requirement of proof that travel by public transportation is not reasonable.

As was the case befor the pandemic, the permissible amount of the travel expense deduction is limited to CHF 3000 for direct federal taxes and CHF 6700 for cantonal and communal taxes.

No changes for other professional expenses were made (e.g. meals out, childcare).

Canton of Zurich

In the canton of Zurich, employees may claim their professional expense deductions (e.g. travel costs, additional costs of meals, lump-sum deductions for other professional expenses and education and training) as would have been possible before corona.

Consequently, professional expense deductions are not reduced by corona-related home office days. In turn, however, no special corona deductions may be claimed either.

This simple procedure is intended to simplify the process of competing the tax return for taxpayers.

Your canton is not among those listed? Inform yourself about the permissible corona professional expense deductions on your canton's website. You can find an overview HERE.

Questions about corona professional expense deductions? The specialists of taxea are at your disposal with their comprehensive expertise.