Who qualifies for a tax break?

Even if you occasionally went to your workplace, you still might be able to claim expenses.

To be eligible, the CRA says, you need to have spent at least 50% of your hours working remotely during four consecutive weeks in 2021. That includes full-time and part-time hours.

Those who qualify can deduct a flat rate, or part of the costs of their workspace, like rent, electricity, heating and maintenance.

How do I apply for a tax break?

Typically, the CRA requires employees who are claiming this deduction to get their employer to fill out the T2200 form, which certifies that working from home is a condition of your employment. But a new form, T777S, can make claiming expenses easier.

Here are the two ways to claim expenses:

Temporary flat rate method

The T777S lets you make a claim without a signed form from your employer, or even receipts from your expenses.

You can claim $2 for each day you worked remotely, up to a maximum of $400 — 200 working days — per individual. Sharing your home office with someone else? You can both make the maximum claim.

Detailed method

If you've had higher expenses, you might be able to write off more than what's offered through the T777S. To do that, submit a claim with an employer-signed T2200S form (a shorter version of the T2200).

This lets you claim a portion of your home’s operating expenses, including heat, electricity, water, maintenance (like cleaning supplies and light bulbs), condo fees and even rent.

To calculate your claim, you need to determine how much of your home the office takes up. For easy math, if your home is 1,000 square feet and the office takes up 200 square feet, you can claim 20% of your total housing expenses.

That doesn't include expenses like office furniture and computer equipment. However, the CRA is allowing employers to reimburse employees for up to $500 worth of expenses tax-free. You'll need to check with your company's human resources department to verify their participation — and keep your receipts.

What expenses can I deduct with a T2200S form?

Here’s what you can and can’t claim:

Phone: Yes, you can deduct a portion of your cell phone plan with a T2200S under certain conditions. The plan itself needs to be reasonable, and you need to prove you used the claimed amount for work.

Internet: Yes, but, again, you can only claim the portion used exclusively for work.

Consumable supplies: Yes, you can deduct the total cost of things like pens, paper, stamps and ink cartridges that are used solely for work.

Furniture and tech: No, items like chairs, desks and monitors are permanent and thus considered capital expenses, which can’t be deducted by employees.

Mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance: No, and ... it depends; your mortgage payment is not considered an expense. But employees who work on commission can claim property taxes and insurance.

Clothing: No, even if your job requires special clothing, you can’t deduct the costs.

If in doubt, CRA has a handy calculator to help you add up your claimable expenses based on your chosen filing method.

Don’t waste the savings

Once you file your 2021 tax return and collect your refund, be mindful what you do with it. As we've learned from months of start and stop lockdowns, pandemic containment measures do strain your finances.

If you do get a refund, consider using it to top up a high-interest savings account. You’ll have easy access in an emergency, and your money will grow way faster than it would in a traditional savings account. When you’re looking for the right high-interest savings account, be sure to compare your options.

Another option would be to transfer your refund to a commission-free investing service that’ll give you $50 just for signing up.

And those looking to take control of their investments should certainly explore online trading platforms. The best sites offer resources and tools to help investors make informed decisions as they build and manage their investment portfolios.

About the Author

Ethan Rotberg

Ethan Rotberg

Reporter

Ethan Rotberg is a staff reporter at MoneyWise, based in Toronto. His background includes nearly 15 years as a writer, editor, designer and communications professional. His work has appeared in the Toronto Star, CPA Canada and Metro, among others.

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