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December 27, 2020 | Homies

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.

That’s Winston. He’s a border collie, raised, bred-in-the-bone and trained to herd sheep. But, of course, now he works from home. Via Zoom. Full pay, plus an employer-matched RRSP. It’s all good. And, like most workers under the age of 34 (Winston is four) he’s in no hurry to get back to the pasture and have the boss whistle commands. It’s the new normal, he insists. Just text me.

WFH may be forever. Or it may be the Beanie Baby of our times. But it’s weird.

My corporate colleagues went home in mid-March when the soaring Bay Street tower where they toil shut down amid the first Covid onslaught. They’re still at home. (Meanwhile my immediate co-workers and employees have been at their desks in the wee-bank-by-the-sea since the end of April. Actually I had a few chains installed. Just for effect. There’s also a vault…)

The vaccine will rout the virus at some point, likely in the second half of 2021. Then WFH – which affected up to 40% of the workforce – will pose a serious dilemma for many whose overlords expect them to come back to the office – at least on a rotational basis to start. Lots of urban employees moved to the burbs and beyond as nesting and isolation became their goals. They never thought about commuting since, you know, WFH was forever. Soon they may have to spend hours on the road, move back to urbanity or ferret out another job.

The folks who believe the downtown spires will stay vacant are delusional. The same can be said of those who don’t see cascading condo values as a potential opportunity. Once restaurants, students, immigrants, business travelers, office serfs and tourists return, everything changes.

In the meantime, we’re at the end of 2020 and millions have been ‘working’ remotely without pants for up to nine months. They’ve logged on through their own Internet connections, bought their own highlighters and post-it notes and used their own laptops, printers, scanners and cells. And while many WFHers have saved a bundle not driving to work, not bothering to dryclean their clothes or maybe not paying a dog-walker or day care provider, they think these work-related expenses should bring compensation.

There are two ways of doing this.

First, Mr. Socks is no dummy. He won the adulation of the unemployed with tens of billions in direct CERB payments. Now he’s out to win WFH hearts as well, with an instant tax break. Called the Simplified Temporary Flat Rate Method, it lets you claim two bucks for each day worked remotely over at least a four week period. The allowable total is $400 for 2020, yielding a tax reduction of about $100 for most people. The best part – no receipts required.

The more serious and detailed way of dealing with expenses – and a lot more of them – is to get your employer to issue a T2200 form. It declares you were required to work in your jammies in the spare room in order to earn income. This is a normal thing for commissioned employees who usually incur a raft of personal expenses and whose compensation is variable and performance-oriented. It’s less common for salaried folks, but 2020 hasn’t been a common year.

Here’s part of my my 2019 T2200…


You might, like me, decide to buy a former Bank of Montreal branch and hire assistants – in which case building costs are legitimate expenses – or you can work from home and deduct residential costs from your taxable income. (The CRA has just published a new, short Covid version of the form. Here it is.) Allowable deductions include a pro-rated portion (usually based on square footage) of electricity charges, monthly rent, repairs plus office and computer supplies. Not included would be property tax, insurance, renos, mortgage payments or furniture.

And now a few words from a blog dog with decades of experience in the HR business.

“I’ve spent a career in human resources,” she says. “When someone starts working from home, their homeplace suddenly became a workplace, and unbeknown to many employees or employers, the employer must still accept the liability should the employee become injured while on the job.”

A lot of workplace comp claims are related to ergonomics.  Back pain from lousy chairs, carpel tunnel from keyboarding, tripping in the icy parking lot.  Little stuff, but costly stuff.

When we had an employee assigned to work from home, we used to send the Health and Safety Officer in to inspect where in the home they’d be working.  We’d often buy furniture to set up an ergonomically sound workstation.  We also told them they were not allowed to do laundry, cook, run errands or generally putter about the house during work hours, because if they tripped on the basement steps while hauling a load of laundry up from the basement, or slipped in their driveway while they were shovelling snow, or hurt themselves doing anything domestic, when instead they should have been working, then we as an employer would be liable for the accident if we couldn’t prove the employee was doing laundry, cleaning the driveway or baking a pie.

I’ll bet money that just about every employer that currently has employees working from home, has not conducted any due diligence when assigning those employees to WFH.  And I can assure you that if you’ve been working from home, hunched over a laptop at the kitchen table while sitting on a crappy stool from Home Depot for the last 10 months, then you’re a WSIB back or carpel tunnel or neck strain or chronic pain or fibromyalgia claim just waiting to be processed.

So there ya go, WFH dudes. Tell the boss to fork over that executed T2200 Covid form so you can deduct all expenses, or you might fall off your chair while Googling, ‘how to file a workers comp claim’.

Hey, is it 2021 yet?

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December 27th, 2020

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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