In general, the reimbursement by an employer of employee expenses is treated for tax purposes as earnings from the employment for the tax year in which they are paid (ITEPA 2003 ss 70 and 72) and will be taxed in the normal way. There is, however, an exemption for ‘homeworking arrangements’ which covers payments made by an employer to an employee in respect of reasonable additional household expenses incurred in carrying out duties of their employment at home (ITEPA s 316A). This is currently up to £4 a week (or £18 a month) but, as announced in the Budget, will be increased to £6 a week from 6 April 2020. An exempt homeworking payment under s 316A can be made to employees who work at home under a voluntary homeworking scheme (which is a crucial difference to other expenses claimed by employees outside of these arrangements).
Costs that may be covered by such homeworking payments include additional costs of heating and lighting the work area or the metered cost of increased water use, provided that the additional household costs are reasonable and incurred in carrying out the employee’s duties. There might also be increased charges for internet access, home contents insurance, business telephone calls or the additional cost incurred as a result of business rates liability (EIM01474). Broadband costs will only be tax exempt if the employee is not already paying for a broadband connection (EIM01475). Payments for costs that would be incurred whether or not the employee worked at home – for example, mortgage interest, rent, council tax or water rates – will not be tax exempt.