Cities need to start thinking about the outcomes for taxes if working from home becomes permanent, writes Jack Mintz in the Financial Post. Below is an excerpt of the article, which can be read in full here.
By Jack Mintz, June 10, 2020
OpenText, one of Canada’s premier hi-tech companies, drew attention last week when it announced that it plans to close half of its offices worldwide, as about 2,000 of its employees switch to working from home on a permanent basis. OpenText is not alone. Morgan Stanley, Twitter, Facebook and Google have all indicated they will shift towards work-at-home models for many of their employees. It is not that we have all of sudden discovered people can work from home through digitization and telecommunication. It’s just that this pandemic has taught many employers the switch can be successful.
A PWC survey found that 26 per cent of U.S. companies are now looking to reduce their real estate requirements in 2020. If a major shift leads to working at home on a partial or full-time basis, it will also have a significant impact on municipal planning and budgets.
Let’s be realistic, though. Not all work can be done at home. Videoconferencing is not perfect, especially for large groups. Face-to-face all-day meetings still have more spontaneity and conversational ease. Besides, many people like going to a workplace either because they lack privacy at home, have toddlers running around them or are more productive somewhere other than home.
Some industries also need to have their employees at the workplace. Most goods-producing businesses, as well as service companies ranging from restaurants to health clinics that require face-to-face customer contact, still need their people all in one place.
That said, there are significant benefits from not travelling to work. People living in suburbs far from their downtown workplace can save from one to three hours of daily commuting time that can be better used either for work or leisure. Every day they don’t travel also means less spending for gas or electricity, parking, depreciation on a car or transit fares, as well as less risk of traffic accidents and lower insurance costs.