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BYOD and SOHO need tax breaks

When is work? When is play? A week after the Union budget I was wondering when my home laptop developed a significant problem that set me back by a decent amount.

columns Updated: Mar 08, 2015 22:52 IST
N Madhavan

When is work? When is play? A week after the Union budget I was wondering when my home laptop developed a significant problem that set me back by a decent amount.

I pay for my news channels, newspapers, mobile phone services, my handsets, my data plan and my home computer. Not all of this is reimbursed by the employer. The world has moved on to work-from-home and small office home office (SOHO) options – and the crowning glory is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon that is gaining currency.

This leaves us with the big question: Should we not get better tax breaks to aid this? True, the blurring between work and play has the other side, where one makes Facebook updates on sport or cinema from the work-place during office hours.. But knowledge work is not just about time logged but is about information, insights and relationships gathered and processed – wherever, whenever.

Boutique consultancies and self-employment are also becoming quite common in a world where skills and online connectivity involve various expenditures.

In that sense, the knowledge worker in the age of BYOD is somewhat like an entrepreneur. I think our tax rules are not recognizing this yet.

Independent consultants have their own tax fixes but corporate employees such as software consultants, engineers, designers and content creators need a tax regime that is more friendly. The point to note that there are some expenses that are borne by employees but not completely linked to the employer.

Salaried tax payers used to enjoy something called the “standard deduction” There is a case to bring it back to help knowledge workers upgrade their skills by enrolling in online courses, buy new equipment and spend on data plans.