Claiming tax refunds for your home office: 9 things to know

There are certain conditions that will not allow you to claim home office expenses from SARS. Picture: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

There are certain conditions that will not allow you to claim home office expenses from SARS. Picture: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

Published Aug 2, 2023


With tax season upon us, many homeowners who permanently work from home may be considering submitting their expenses to SARS in order to claim tax refunds.

Knowing how to do this though – or if you even qualify, can be tricky.

To help you out, SARS responds to some frequently asked questions:

1. How do I calculate home office expenses?

Generally, the expenditure relating to the rent of the premises, and the repair costs of, and in connection with, the premises, is determined on the basis of apportionment. There may be instances where a type of expenditure is not subject to this apportionment and is, for example, fully excluded or included.

“SARS accepts that the correct apportionment method to calculate the proportion of expenditure attributable to a part of a premises occupied for purposes of trade, is apportionment based on floor area of the premises (square metres of area of home office versus total square metres of your home).”

2. What is the method of calculating home office expenses?

Should you qualify for a deduction in respect of home office expenses, the amount must be calculated on the following basis: A/B x total costs, where:

  • A = the square meterage of the home office area specifically equipped and used regularly and exclusively for trade
  • B = the total square meterage of your residence, including any outbuildings and the area used for trade in the residence
  • Total costs = the costs incurred that are linked closely to the premises, such as rent, rates and taxes, repairs, and electricity. This excludes expenses of a capital nature*

You need to enter the expense amount calculated next to the source code 4028 on your tax return.

* Note that only expenses relating to the premises must be apportioned based on floor area (for example, rent, rates and taxes, cleaning, etc.). Expenses that are not in connection with the premises (such as wear-and-tear on equipment and furniture used for trade purposes) do not need to be apportioned based on floor area.

3. I’ve been working from home since the start of lockdown in 2020 and make use of my existing space in the house to work from. I have no special room and did not buy any chair or desk. Am I eligible to claim?

No, you will not be eligible as it does not appear that the part of your home used for trade is exclusively used for trade, and is not specifically equipped for purposes of your trade, SARS states.

4. Can I get solar rebates for work-from-home if my personal property is running on solar power and part of my property is dedicated to working from home?

If your property is running on your own installed solar power then you will not have incurred any expenditure, and no deduction is permitted.

5. Can I claim for installing desks and shelving as well as chairs for the separate room I have converted into a home office?

Yes, you could qualify for a wear-and-tear allowance on these items. You need to consult Interpretation Note 47 ‘Wear-and-Tear or Depreciation Allowance’ (Issue 5) for more detail on the requirements and a list setting out what SARS considers to be the useful life of certain assets.

6. I turned my garage, which was filled with clutter, into an office. I renovated the space and installed lights and other office equipment. I own my property outright and do not pay bond or rent, and also do not have records of floor plans. Am I eligible to make a claim?

You will need to obtain accurate dimensions for the converted garage and the rest of the buildings, perhaps from the local council.

“It is not a requirement that building plans be professionally drawn up. You can draw up the plan yourself, provided the measurements are accurate.”

SARS adds, though, that you will not qualify for a deduction for the improvements made when converting your garage to a home office, as this does not qualify as a repair. You may, however, qualify for a wear-and-tear allowance for the chair and desk.

Further, expenditures and losses incurred prior to the commencement of trade would not be eligible for deduction as these are not permitted under the legislation applicable to home office claims.

7. What do I need to keep as proof for electricity if am using Prepaid electricity for my home office expense claim?

The prepaid vouchers will be acceptable.

8. I have a room that I use for my home office but there is a wall of cupboards that is used for linen storage. Can I still claim for the home office but exclude the square meters of the cupboards?

Excluding the space for the cupboards will ensure that only expenses relating directly to the home office are claimed.

9. What happens if I never had an office at home but now I have to sit at home and work due to Covid? Can I still claim home office expenses?

You will not be eligible to claim home office expenses unless the relevant part of the home is regularly and exclusively used for the purposes of employment. That part must also be specifically equipped for that purpose. Even if you worked mainly from home, if these requirements are not met, no deduction is permitted, SARS explains.

For answers to more frequently asked questions, visit SARS’ advice page.

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