The pandemic created by the novel coronavirus has drastically changed the way we live and work. As more businesses are forced to send their employees home, work-from-home life has become a mainstay especially in knowledge-based jobs (jobs that do not require physical labor), and many of these industries are not going back to the workplace anytime soon. This can create wrinkles for both employers and employees when it comes to their tax situations.
Here’s what employers and employees need to know about remote work and the impact it can have on taxes.
Tax and labor considerations for employers with remote employees
Nexus – Employers who have transitioned their workforce to be remote must be conscious of potential nexus implications due to any employees now working from another state. Working out of state from the employer can create physical nexus which means the employer will be responsible for the taxes imposed from the employee’s location. This could include taxes on income, gross receipts, and sales and use from both the city and county level.
Some states have waived these nexus rules or have adjusted in light of COVID-19 including Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia. Check with your CPA to ensure you’re following your state’s remote worker nexus law.
Labor and employment law – Changes in an employee’s location across state lines can result in new wage and hour rules, termination of employment considerations, noncompetition agreements, trade secrets protections, and paid sick and family leave rules. Employers will want to be mindful of worker’s compensation insurance as states usually require employers to register and obtain premiums to cover the employee in that state. Additionally, unemployment insurance is also required by states for employees even if the employer operates in a different state.
Remote worker supplies – Employers who purchased items and provided them to workers in order to move operations remotely may deduct those expenses on their tax return. As these supplies are usually purchased for non-compensatory business reasons, employees do not need to pay taxes on them. Employers who reimbursed employees for purchased supplies deemed “ordinary and necessary” should have accountability plans and policies in place to protect the employee from taxation.
Consistent and accurate communication with employees during this time is key in order to avoid employer and employee tax violations as tax updates continue to be released regarding nexus and tax responsibilities. Be mindful that employee tax obligations are not the employer’s responsibility, so remind your employees to stay vigilant about their personal tax situation.
Tax implications for employees working from home
Double-taxation – Double-taxation can be a large burden for employees living in one state and working in another. Double-taxation occurs when the resident state doesn’t provide an employee with a credit on their return for taxes paid to their employer’s state. States where this can occur include New York, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania.
Home office deductions – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 removed the itemized home office deduction for unreimbursed expenses exceeding 2% of AGI. This means that even though new remote employees have had to procure supplies during the pandemic, and they were not either directly purchased by the employer or the employee was not reimbursed, those expenses are not tax-deductible.
Self-employed individuals are still eligible for the home office deduction if they are purchasing their own supplies. If a contracting client purchases supplies for them, they are tax-deductible for the client, but not the self-employed individual.
Relocation – If you’ve permanently relocated across state lines during the pandemic, you will need to file tax returns for both states in 2021. Even temporary relocations of six months or longer may require tax returns to be filed in two states. It is likely states will be monitoring these moves closely in order to recover lost revenue.
Employers who have never operated with remote workers prior to the pandemic could face significant headaches come tax time. Likewise, employees who are working in one state and living in another could face large tax bills in 2021. For assistance with your obligations as an employer or individual taxpayer, reach out to us.