‘Caution! Homeworking costs money’


You've no doubt seen it, that single sentence, ‘Caution! Borrowing money costs money’. It is included in every advert for a financial product. A similar sentence should be added to all emails and seminars about homeworking. Because it is easy not to realize that homeworking can be very costly. And I'm not talking about coffee and bathroom supplies.

The problem is the change made to the commuting allowance, which now stand at 12 cents per kilometer on the days you come to TU/e and 2 euros per day on the days you work from home. I myself live so close to the university that homeworking pays. By coming to TU/e I gain 1.44 euros per day, by staying home 2 euros.

But suppose you live in Maastricht, or somewhere else farther away so that your commute one-way is more than 50 kilometers. Then it really becomes an issue. In that case, up to the end of 2020, as an employee you received a tax-free allowance of over 190 euros per month. For that money, many colleagues bought an off-peak season ticket from the NS (Dutch Railways). If you used your smarts when choosing your working hours, you might even have had money over for the bus trip to and from the station.

Under the current rules, an employee's allowance stretches only to the days on which he or she travels, up to a maximum of 50 kilometers for a one-way journey. So if you come to work full time from Maastricht, your allowance is 214 euros per month. For every one of your regular homeworking days, 36.37 euros is deducted from this amount; on those days instead of 12 euros as commuting allowance, you are getting 2 euros in homeworking allowance.

In itself, it seems only logical that you wouldn't get any travel expenses for days you don't travel. The problem lies in the fact that the NS doesn't work this way. There aren't any season tickets for three days a week. It is all or nothing. So you incur the same costs as a full-time commuter while getting no allowance.

Even taking into account the new internet allowance of 300 euros per annum, and with all the tax options available in the Employment Conditions Selection Model, for someone living far away and working from home four days a week, the cumulative effect is a loss of some 100 euros net per month. You would have to have some serious issues with your colleagues to be prepared to fork out this much money to avoid seeing them.

The argument that in this case the employee should move home doesn't hold water. Many of our colleagues live farther away because they have no other choice. This may be because housing closer by is unaffordable, or because their partner also works and needs to travel in the opposite direction. I expect that homeworking will be a much-discussed topic in the coming weeks and months. So bear in mind the warning, ‘Caution! Homeworking costs money’.

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