Corona I Tax free benefits and the Tax Agency’s interpretation regarding e.g. the six-moth rule and tax relief for experts

The six-month rule should be applicable even though days in Sweden are exceeded due to Corona

A Swedish tax resident that works abroad for at least six months, does not have to pay tax on the assignment related income in Sweden if:

  • it is taxed in the country of work (not necessary under the one-year rule) and
  • the individual does not spend more than an average of six days per week or 72 days during an employment year in Sweden

 

If the employee on good grounds could assume that their assignment related income would be exempt from Swedish taxation, but conditions would change implying that these criteria are no longer fulfilled, a safety clause could be applicable. In such case it should be due to circumstances that the individual could not rule over and that a Swedish taxation therefor would be regarded as evidently unreasonable.

A waiver from the total amount of days in Sweden can be given:

  • due to personal occurrences such as own on close family members’ illness or
  • external circumstances such as war, strike or similar.

 

The Swedish Tax Agency has communicated that the Corona epidemic is such a circumstance when the safety clause could be applicable. This means that employees who are on assignment abroad but have been “stranded” in Sweden during the epidemic, and thereby exceed the set 72 days, could still apply the six-month rule as long as other criteria are fulfilled.

The above is only applicable if:

  • the actual work abroad has exceeded three months for the six-month rule
  • and a minimum of six months for the one-year rule.

 

 

Work from home does not lead to fixed establishment

A company’s different connections to a country often determines country of taxation. Typical factors are seat, fixed establishment, residency, and permanent stay. A fixed establishment can raise in a place where the financial activities have sufficient grade of duration and feasible structure with regards to human- and technical resources in order to provide or receive and make use of services that the company provides or receives. The question of fixed establishment comes to its head, when the Swedish population is recommended to work from home, not the least people who live in Sweden but are employed in an adjacent country such as the Nordics.

The Swedish Tax Agency has clarified its position that work from home during the epidemic is of a temporary nature and does not constitute a fixed establishment for the foreign entity since the criteria “a certain degree of permanency” is not fulfilled. Even if most employees today working from home have feasible technical resources and the foreign entity in this context has the human resources, it is not regarded that the foreign entity has a fixed establishment with the potential to independently provide or acquire and consume goods or services.

 

 

The expert tax relief is applicable even if the salary level is lowered due to reduced working hours in relation to Corona

Sweden offers a so-called expert tax relief to attract foreign workforce with specific qualifications. The relief is obtained after a decision from the Taxation of Research Workers Board if special skills or a set monthly salary level are shown. In order for an employee to enjoy the tax relief based on the salary criterion, this minimum level must be kept throughout the full period of relief, in general 3 years.

During the Corona pandemic many companies have decided to lay off all or part of their personnel for a shorter period in order to save the companies financial situation during the crisis, not having to permanently terminate personnel and open up for a rapid start after the crisis has passed. Other companies allow their staff to work part time (whereby the company may receive cash support from the State). For employees who have been offered to work part time, this will have an impact on their salary level and could therefor possibly entail that the salary criterion under approved expert tax relief is no longer fulfilled. The Swedish Tax Agency has therefor stated that their view is that Expert tax relief based on the salary criteria will still be applicable even if the salary would for a period be reduced, due to Corona.

 

Temporary abandoned tax liability on benefit of free parking and gifts to employees

During the current pandemic, the Swedish population has been advised not to use public transportation but to work from home or, if this is not possible, use alternative transportation such as car or bike.

A proposal referred to the Council on Legislation for consideration has been presented where employees who need to take their car to work during the epidemic, will not be taxed for the benefit of free parking at their work place. The tax relief is proposed to apply retroactive from April 2020 and throughout the rest of the year.

Further a relief of benefit taxation is proposed on gifts to personnel up to an amount of SEK 1 000 per employee. The background is that many employers wish to show their gratitude towards their staff and would like to encourage them to use gift vouchers in order to support the local enterprise. The tax relief is proposed to be valid from June 2020 and the year out. Gifts in the form of cash remuneration or other gifts that may be exchanged for cash are still seen as taxable income.

 

If you have any questions about this, you are most welcome to contact us at Skeppsbron Skatt.

 
 
 
Anders Lagerholm
Global Mobility Services