Reimbursement of expenses to smart workers: the opinion of the Revenue Agency

Prepared by Marzio Scaglioni and Alice Martinis

With the Questioning no. 314 of April 30, 2021, the Revenue Agency provides clarifications regarding the tax treatment applicable to the sums paid as reimbursement to smart workers, stating that the sums paid by the employer to its employees, in order to reimburse the costs incurred from the same in carrying out their working activity, do not constitute income for workers, when they can be considered as expenses faced in the exclusive interest of the employer himself and on condition that they are identified on the basis of objective elements.

In detail, the company intends to sign a second-level agreement or adopt a regulation aimed at regulating the economic treatment of smart workers. To keep workers harmless from the expenses they have to bear in order to carry out their business, the company intends to grant a refund for each working day from home, determined on the basis of parameters aimed at identifying the costs saved by the company and supported by the employee.

Without prejudice to the principle of all-encompassing income from subordinate employment, the Revenue Agency, recalling the previous Circular 326/E /1997 and Resolutions 178/E/2003 and 357/E/ 2007, reminds that however there are exceptions to the aforementioned principle. In particular, on the one hand, those reimbursements of expenses, other than those incurred to produce the income, pertaining to the employer, advanced by the employee (e.g. capital goods of small value, printer paper) are excluded from taxation. On the other hand, all the sums which, even if paid by the employer, do not constitute an enrichment for the worker (e.g. compensation which was patrimonial reintegration). Finally, disbursements made for the exclusive interest of the employer are not fiscally relevant for the employee. In order for these reimbursements to be excluded from taxable income, in the absence of specific lump sum quantification criteria dictated by Law, they must be determined on the basis of objective and documentally ascertainable elements.

The Agency confirms the company’s thesis on the non-taxability of the reimbursements in question as the criterion for determining the share of costs to be reimbursed to the smart workers is based on parameters aimed at identifying costs saved by the company which, instead, have been incurred by the employee, such reimbursements being considered referable to consumption incurred in the exclusive interest of the employer.

Conversely, as reiterated by the Revenue Agency in other recent Questionings – most recently with the Questioning no. 328 of May 11, 2021 – the sums reimbursed to employees, determined on a flat-rate basis, contribute to the formation of employment income. In general terms, therefore, the Agency has not changed its opinion but has shown an openness in relation to a subject of interest to many companies, given the increasing of smart working. Even if the adoption of a flat-rate criterion would facilitate companies and workers in determining the expenses incurred in the context of smart working, only the use of a criterion based on objective and documentally ascertainable elements can prevent these sums from contributing to the determination of income from subordinate employment.

Let’s Talk

For a deeper discussion, please contact:

Marzio Scaglioni

PwC TLS Avvocati e Commercialisti