Now that the 'work from home if you can' guidance has been lifted, employees are returning to the office. If, following their return, you allow employees to keep their homeworking equipment for personal use, there may be tax consequences to consider.
If you provided homeworking equipment to your employees to enable them to work from home, no tax charge arose on the provision of the equipment, as long as you retained ownership of it. However, there may be tax to pay if you allow the employee to keep the equipment for their personal use when they no longer need it to work from home. The nature of the tax charge depends on whether ownership of the equipment is transferred to the employee.
A tax charge will arise if you transfer ownership of the equipment to the employee, unless the employee pays at least the market value for the equipment. The amount charged to tax is the market value at the date of the transfer, less any amount paid by the employee.
No transfer of ownership
If, instead, you retain ownership of the equipment but allow the employee to use it for their personal use, the tax charge is based on the 'annual value' of the equipment. This is 20% of the market value of the equipment at the date on which it is first made available for the employee's personal use.
You may have chosen to adopt a flexible working policy under which employees continue to work from home some of the time. Where this is the case, as long as the homeworking equipment remains available predominantly to allow the employee to work from home, no tax charge will arise on insignificant private use.
At the start of the pandemic, many employees were required to work from home at very short notice. In many cases, it was easier for the employee to buy the equipment that they needed to work from home, and claim the cost back from the employer.
If you took this route and reimbursed employees for the cost of homeworking equipment, as long as the ownership of the equipment was not transferred to you, there is no tax to pay if the employee retains the equipment for personal use when they return to the workplace.
If you are unsure whether a tax charge arises in respect of retained homeworking equipment when your employees return to the office, please get in touch to discuss this with us.