Can Employees Deduct Cost of Cell Phone Plan?

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This should be an area of interest to pretty much anyone that owns a cell phone, so I thought I’d reproduce it here. It’s a recent CRA technical interpretation on the question of whether the cost of a cell phone plan is deductible from employment income.

Deductions from employment income must be specifically provided for under the Income Tax Act. Section 8(1)(i)(iii) deals with supplies used up in the course of performing employment duties. There must be a requirement under the employment contract for the employee to pay for his own supplies, and the employer must sign form T2200 to attest to this requirement.

The CRA was asked whether the cost of a basic cellular service plan is deductible from an employee’s employment income where an employer requires the employee to use a cellular phone to perform employment duties.

CRA Response: It is a question of fact. Section 8(1)(i)(iii) of the Income Tax Act (the “Act”) provides a deduction to an employee for “the cost of supplies that were consumed directly in the performance of the duties of . . . employment and that the . . . employee was required by the contract of employment to supply and pay for.” For supplies to be considered consumed directly in the performance of employment duties, the supplies must be used up and play an integral and essential part in the performance of the employment duties. The cost of the supplies should also be reasonable.

Based on the above, cellular minutes and data would be considered “supplies that were consumed directly” where it is determined that the cellular minutes and data were used up and played an integral and essential part in the performance of the employment duties. It is our understanding that service providers typically provide a detailed breakdown of each cellular minute used, but do not similarly provide a detailed breakdown of cellular data used. It is our view that without a detailed breakdown an employee would not be able to substantiate the amount of cellular  data that was used for employment purposes. Where the cellular minutes or data and costs cannot be substantiated, a deduction from employment income is not permitted under s. 8(1)(i)(iii) of the Act. If an employee can substantiate that they used their cellular phone exclusively for employment purposes (i.e., no personal use), it is our view that the basic service plan may reasonably reflect the cost of those cellular minutes and data. Where there is both employment and personal use and the employment use can be substantiated, an employee may apportion the basic service plan on a reasonable basis. However, if only the employment use of cellular minutes can be substantiated, only the portion of the basic service plan for minutes may be apportioned (i.e., the portion of the basic service plan for data cannot be deducted).

What’s Your tax Issue? Workspace At Home

Well, it’s tax time again, and so from now until the end of April, The Tax Issue will be devoted to your tax issues. So send in your questions and subscribe to this blog to make sure you don’t miss the answer!

Today’s question is very interesting and it affects many people as more and more are working from home these days.

The Tax Issue

My late husband was a CA and he always said we should not claim some of our home office expenses as it would create some sort of problem when we later sold the house. He died a decade ago and I am the furthest thing from a CA that there is!

Last year, my job changed and I now work at home full-time. My employer issued a T2200 for me to claim office supplies and other expenses. If I claim part of my heat, power and desk chair, will that trigger any problems in two years to come when I sell my house?

The Answer

Don’t worry about selling your home, you’ll be fine!

The fact is, as an employee, you can claim only certain specific expenses as required by law, and those are subject to some very strict conditions. Your employer must require you to work at home. Thus, the requirement for the T2200 form.

In order to claim part of your home expenses, you must meet one of the following two conditions:

  • The work space is where you mainly (more than 50% of the time) do your work.
  • You use the work space only to earn your employment income. You also have to use it on a regular and continuous basis for meeting clients or customers.

You can deduct the part of your costs that relates to your work space, such as the cost of electricity, heating and maintenance. However, as an employee, you cannot deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance or capital cost allowance (depreciation).

To calculate the percentage of work-space-in-the-home expenses you can deduct, use a reasonable basis, such as the area of the work space divided by the total area.

If you need more information on deductions of home expenses or other employment expenses you can claim, you will find it at the CRA website.

Now, back to your late husband and his concerns. The rules on home office expenses are different for self-employed people. They can claim a portion of taxes, insurance, mortgage interest and depreciation (CCA) in the calculation of their self-employed earnings. However, if they choose to claim CCA, they will likely suffer in the end when the house is sold, since it will not completely be eligible for tax-free treatment as a principal residence. That’s what he was worried about and that’s why most self-employed people are advised not to claim CCA on their homes.