Especially those who go on a lot of business trips know how important a correct travel expense report is. Part of this is the overnight flat rate that should be claimed. In this article we explain how it works and what needs to be taken into account.
What is the overnight flat rate?
An overnight flat rate always comes into play if you are staying overnight in the course of a business trip, a hotel or private accommodation. This amount is therefore part of the travel expense report and tax-free for the person to whom the sum is due. However, this is not a business expense for the company. If, on the other hand, the full amount of the actual accommodation costs is paid, this is a business expense.
The employer is not legally obliged to pay the overnight flat rate and a flat rate that deviates from the specified rates could be agreed individually. In addition, companies sometimes pay the cost of the overnight stay, and sometimes they don’t. To a certain extent, travel costs always remain a matter of negotiation or agreement between the employer and the employee.
There are also differences in the flat rate for overnight stays, depending on whether you stay at home or abroad. We will now explain these in detail.
Overnight flat rate in Germany
Basically, the flat rate for overnight stays in Germany is 20 euros per night. Alternatively, the costs actually incurred can also be used as income-related expenses . For this purpose, however, a receipt must be kept, ideally the bill from the hotel. If the employer provides a free or discounted overnight accommodation anyway, the overnight flat rate may not be paid. In other words, this means that the usual costs for the overnight stay actually have to be incurred. Anyone staying with friends can therefore not claim an overnight flat rate, even if it is a business trip.
There is an important note for all those who have to travel for a longer period within Germany on business: The flat rate overnight stay can be used for a maximum of three months. This is not possible for longer, but if you have to travel within Germany for such a long time, you have the advantage that the costs can be counted as double housekeeping.
Overnight flat rate abroad
When it comes to billing the flat rate for overnight stays abroad, it is much more complicated than in Germany. Because here different sentences apply that must be carefully observed. In addition, a night that is spent in a means of transport, be it on a plane or on a train, must not be counted. The amount of the flat rate depends on the place where you actually stay, unless you are out all night.
The cost rates are redefined every year. In addition, breakfast may not be included. Specifically, this means that if breakfast is shown separately, this amount must be deducted from the bill. If it is not listed as a cost item, the total amount is to be reduced by 20 percent.
Abroad, the amount of the overnight flat rate varies from country to country. Sometimes there are different amounts within a country to show that some cities are particularly expensive. In Australia, for example, a significantly higher amount is set in Sydney than for an overnight stay in the hinterland.
Those who stay in Bulgaria receive 72 euros, those who have to travel to Denmark receive almost double that amount. Finland and within England, especially London, also have high flat rates for overnight stays. An overnight stay in Austria is compensated at 92 euros and is therefore set significantly lower. There is an exact overview from the tax office. A table of all countries with the respective flat rates is published here every year .
Methods for billing the overnight flat rate
There are different approaches to the costs of overnight stays, which have already been mentioned briefly. Now we will go into the three feasible variants in a very specific way.
Option 1: flat rate for overnight stays
The first possibility is that the overnight allowance is paid by the company. This amount is tax-free. If employees then find much cheaper accommodation, they can earn a good amount of money. It is important, however, that there must actually be accommodation costs. So if you want to save, you can use the flat rate, but go to a cheap hotel and enjoy the tax-free difference.
The amount of the flat rate can be found in the corresponding overview of the tax office. Overnight stays within Germany are set at a flat rate of just 20 euros.