Home working has always been with us. In generations past it was of course different. Washing or other outsourced domestic chores have always been done, as has child care, along with other occupations whether through choice or necessity. It’s after all how weaving started out before industrialisation took over although it continued with Harris Tweed. But developments in IT opened up opportunities for many and life style choices have been made, and now all that has been followed by Covid restrictions.
Lockdown may have eased but some jobs will never be the same. Working from home is going to be much more commonplace. For some it will be through choice, for others though it’ll be directed. I’ve got friends and family doing so and opinions vary. Those with young families can find it hard and others miss the socialisation of the office.
The choice often isn’t there’s or even when there’s some flexibility it’s not the same when the office premises can be desolate and facilities that once existed have shrunk or been removed. Many employers have also seen that having all staff in urban offices is no longer necessary. Smaller accommodation can be acquired and savings made.
But whether those working at home are doing so through choice or direction, they’re facing increased power bills. Energy costs are going through the roof and it’s not just heating but power that’s required, phones and computers need to be on and charged or the work can’t be done.
At the moment the HMRC allowance for working from home amounts to the princely sum of £6 per week. Yes, it comes to the Kings Ramson of £316 per annum off your tax bill. But that wont cover the increase in a quarterly gas or electricity payment for many. Yet, they’re to be working from home with the power on and may also wish the indulgence of heating whilst at their laptops or computers. It’s just not enough for these times we live in and that’s before the fallout from the conflict in the Ukraine’s factored in. LNG has already gone up 29%.
To be fair to HMRC it’s a relatively new allowance coming in only in the early 2000s. Presumably before it just wasn’t considered or many affected especially women weren’t paying tax. It was also increased a few years back from the previous set rate of £4 per week. But times change.
This is the way of the modern world and the tax system needs to recognise and reflect that. It was therefore hugely disappointing to ask the Chancellor what actions he planned to take on this matter, only to be palmed off with the usual platitudes that they will keep it under review.
The time for review has long since arrived, as the bills are coming in. The allowance needs to increase and substantially. The Chancellors raking in funds through VAT on energy, the least he can do’s offset that with homeworking allowances that reflect reality of the costs involved.