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Working from home is currently mandatory in Switzerland.

As of 18. January 2021 the Swiss Government has made working from home mandatory: anyone who can work from home is now obligated to do so.

Many Swiss employers already encouraged their staff to work from home even before this federal law was introduced. From a tax perspective, no changes are forecast as a result. However, understanding the nuances of the work-from-home order can be valuable when filling 2020 tax returns.

The amount of time worked from the home office has no effect on tax deductions. It is recommended however that employees ask their employer to certify the number of days worked from company premises on their salary statement.

Before the current pandemic employees could deduct certain work expenses in their Swiss tax return, for example for commuting and meals, as well as one-off deductions for education and training.

When working from a home office some of these deductions are not permitted. With 26 Cantons in Switzerland, and not all of them acting in the same way, employees are advised to check the rules of the canton where they pay their income tax. Some of the cantonal tax authorities have published information regarding home working on their websites:

  • The following cantons accept expenses as if there were no home office ruling: Basel (Stadt & Land), Glarus, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau and Zurich.
  • Aargau also allows commuting expenses to be claimed by those who worked from a home office in 2020.
  • Bern rules that only the actual documented expenses will be accepted.
  • Other cantons may not have made a final decision on home office expenses yet.

Employees may have bought office-related equipment to work from home. Are these items tax deductible?

The Federal Council has clearly stipulated that the employer is under no obligation to finance expenses of the employee for their home office. This includes equipment such as furniture, laptops, scanners and printers. Items privately purchased in order to work from home are also generally not tax deductible, depending on the canton.

Are there exceptions regarding tax deductions for the home office? Here are some examples.

  • In cantons where the usual flat rate deduction no longer applies, the costs for a study room can be deducted; in most of these cases a share for private-use must be accounted for, as the study is rarely used exclusively as a workplace.
  • Flat rate meal allowances are still possible in certain Cantons e.g. Zurich.
  • In Canton Aargau a partial solution with a flat rate until June 2020 is permitted.

Again, as the situation is still somewhat dynamic, we advise you to always check on the website of the canton where you live for any updates before filling the 2020 tax return.

As Switzerland’s preferred payroll provider, Accurity GmbH has over 20 years’ experience providing our clients  with the best advice about their payroll, pensions and social security and ensuring they make the right decisions. If you would like to speak with one of our team of experts, simply contact us now.

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