It was a common situation last year. Jane Doe was mandated to work from home by her employer. So was her husband, John.

Now tax season is coming, and they have lots of questions, as their lifestyle has dramatically changed. They share a home office, but who claims it? What about household bills and other expenditures?

It's a common refrain this year, as East Coast families begin their quest to fill out taxes to maximize their returns.

Experts from across Atlantic Canada were consulted for their best advice:

If I have been working from home because of COVID, what documentation do I need from an employer?

If you have worked from home for more than 50 percent of your work, you can claim a $400 deduction with no paperwork, says Paul Wills, an accountant by trade who has been doing taxes for the past 40 years.

Using this simplified method, you are allowed a maximum claim of $400 at $2 per day up to a maximum of $400. Alternatively, you can use a detailed method with no maximum. Under the detailed method, you have to take a percentage based on the area of your workspace compared to the area of the home.

So, if the percentage of a home office’s household expenses work out to more than $400, you need the T2200 form, which is a declaration of conditions of employment from your employer advising what the conditions are for you to work away from the office, says Wills.

"You can claim a percentage of a home office related to power, heat, internet, and perhaps maintenance but not mortgage interest, property taxes, or insurance," says Wills.

These additional expenses can only be claimed if you are a commissioned employee, meaning you receive part of your income based either on sales or other achievements.

If you do not have a dedicated home office, Wills says the percentage of your home would also be subject to the amount of time it is used as an office. The percentage you can claim is the square footage of your office divided by the total square footage of your home.

You then would have to calculate the percentage of time you use the area, like a dining room, divided by the total time to determine the amount of the “home office” expenses you can claim.

What workplace expenses can I claim from working at home?

Supplies such as paper, ink, and other general office supplies, as well as the cost of travel to get the supplies in kilometers, can all be claimed, says Richard May, executive director of the Community Business Development Corporation for the Great Northern Peninsula, N.L.

If you were reimbursed for expenses, says the advisor, this would have to be deducted from your total expenses. And, you must have the receipts for everything.

To claim expenses, you need to complete form T 777S, a statement of employment expenses for working at home due to COVID-19 on the tax return, he adds. This form allows you to put the expenses in the appropriate area.

Another point to note, says May, is that if an employer-provided benefits to enable an employee to work from home, those payments may be taxable as income. If so, he says this income benefit can be offset by the expense of working from home.

If both my husband and I worked at home, who makes the claim?

According to Wills, you can both claim the percentage of a home office, but if you share the office, then the cost would be split between the two of you, based on the calculation rates above.

Are there special tax exemptions or credits for people who worked in offices during COVID-19?

There are no special claims for these individuals, say both Wills and the tax advisor.

Quick tips

May recommends using a professional to be sure you aren’t doing something you should not and to ensure you get the most out of your claim.

Further, he says, make sure you have the proper documentation to provide to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in case of a post-audit. This includes any receipts or bills.

 For more information, consult an accountant or tax specialist, or visit the CRA website.