How Teleworking Is Changing Your Tax Obligations

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, many employers continue to encourage or require their employees to work from home (i.e., telework). These remote working arrangements have tax implications. Here’s how they could affect you.

State tax obligations for the employer

When an employee works in more than one state, the employer may be required to withhold and remit income taxes to each relevant state. Some states have issued specific guidance on whether remote employees temporarily working in a state due to the impact of COVID-19 create nexus or a tax obligation for an employer who does not operate in that state.

A company’s responsibilities for withholding state income tax for remote workers is complicated because states have different thresholds. For example, some states have rules based on the number of days that a nonresident employee works that trigger income tax withholding obligations. Other states incorporate wage-based threshold measures. In addition, states’ rules and thresholds for nonresidents’ taxation may differ from the withholding rules.

Furthermore, states’ unemployment tax rules are complex. The unemployment tax is paid to only one state, even if the employee works in multiple states. It’s possible to continue paying unemployment tax in the employee’s normal work state if the teleworking is temporary, he/she expects to return soon and is still controlled from the normal work state. However, if the employee’s services are localized to the telework state for the foreseeable future, unemployment tax may need to be paid to the telework state.

State tax obligations for the employee

The employee and employer need to track all the employee’s working locations in order to make sure they comply with all state tax obligations. When taxpayers live in one state but work in another, they may have a tax liability in both states. Certain tax credits are available to minimize taxation of the same income in two different states. Occasionally, neighboring states have reciprocity agreements that simplify income tax filing obligations for taxpayers.

Home office deduction

Certain taxpayers, such as independent contractors and self-employed individuals who use their home for business, may be eligible to claim a home office deduction. This deduction is available to both homeowners and renters and allows qualifying taxpayers to deduct certain home expenses on their tax returns (thus reducing the amount of a taxpayer’s taxable income).

Unreimbursed business expenses of an employee, including maintaining a home office, are no longer deductible as miscellaneous itemized deductions for tax years 2018 through 2025. This is due to the suspension of such deductions by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Business expenses

Although many individual taxpayers are no longer able to deduct work-related expenses as miscellaneous itemized deductions, they can still receive tax-free reimbursement of work-related expenses, such as business-related use of cell phones and internet services. If a business has established an accountable plan as detailed in Publication 15, (Circular E), Employer’s Tax Guide, it can claim a deduction for employee reimbursements of legitimate business expenses, and the reimbursements are not included in the employee’s taxable income.

Data security considerations

Text, instant messages, and email are common methods of communication among people in their private lives. However, with teleworking blurring the lines between professional and personal, privacy and confidentiality concerns between tax practitioners and clients may be created.  Please contact our office if you’d like to discuss our policies to keep your tax and financial information safe.

Potential opportunities and the need for planning today

This new teleworking world is shaping an uncertain tax landscape for individuals and businesses. If you have questions about how teleworking is impacting you or your business’s tax obligations, please contact our office at  (212) 279-9800.

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