Running a Estonian Company as remote (Expenses, Invoices & Travelling)

Which costs am I allowed to claim as business expenses?

Estonian company formation: Estonian companies can deduct all costs from purchases directly related to the company’s actual business operations, such as:

  • Expenses covered by your customers

  • Fees of subcontractors

  • Professional and support services

  • Marketing costs

  • Hardware and software

  • Communication costs (not mobile phone bills)

  • Business trips

  • Participation in business-related events

  • Business-related professional training

  • Bank and transaction fees

  • Office costs and supplies (restrictions apply)

  • Business lunches & gifts (taxable)

  • Salary (taxable)

  • Relevant taxes (salary taxes, dividend taxes, fringe benefits etc.)

Which business services can I purchase?

You can purchase any external services which contribute to your Estonian company’s business activities. Examples include:

  • Marketing and consulting

  • Business, IT, legal and tax advisory services

  • Accounting and administrative support services (e.g. LeapIN)

  • Hosting services (e.g. Amazon, AWS)

  • Domain, trademark, and patent registration

  • External certification and auditing services

There are no limitations to the origin of the service providers, or to the number of services purchased per month/year as long as your company needs the services, and has sufficient resources to cover the costs.

Which costs am I not allowed to claim as business expenses?

  • Purchase of food and drinks for personal use

  • Purchase of furniture for your office

  • Purchase of clothes

  • Purchase of fuel for your personal car for everyday use

  • Business lunches (technically, you can add them as business expenses, but fringe benefit tax applies – approximately 70%).

  • Rent of your house or apartment

  • Buying, renting or maintaining a property (office etc) in a different country

  • Costs of holidays

  • Costs of your family/friends

  • Costs of personal health care, insurance etc

  • Withdrawal of cash for personal use

  • Vehicles registered in a different country

  • Per diems (daily allowances) to you and your staff when in a different country

Why do I have to upload expense documents when you have my credit/debit card statements?

The regulation to keep expense documents comes from Estonian law, and credit card statements usually don’t state exactly what was bought. This kind of information is necessary from an accounting perspective. Since we handle your company’s accounting, we need to have proper receipts/documents for your business expenses.

Each expense needs to have a matching document. If you buy something using your company’s card, and do not provide a matching invoice/document for the expense, then by law this is considered as a non-business related expense, and is taxed with income tax (20%).

Can I buy goods and services outside of Estonia?

You can buy goods (hardware) and services as business expenses under your company name in different countries (even if they are not delivered to Estonia or physically present here) as long as these costs are business related.

Can I reimburse costs I incurred prior to my company registration?

It’s possible that you had costs related to your business before your business was officially registered (e.g your business was registered officially in May 2017 but you had business trips in April 2017 for a meeting with potential clients).

If you had business-related costs within 3 months before your Estonian company was officially registered, please forward the receipts to your accountant. Tehy’ll review the documents and let you know if reimbursement is possible.

Please note that these costs need to be related to your Estonian company which you registered with your accountant, and cannot be related to any other companies.

Can I pay for business communication services?

Yes, for business-related costs such as:

  • Corporate phone number/service (e.g. Skype, Twilio, etc.)

  • Paid Skype calls

  • Paid Wi-Fi access

  • Prepaid SIM cards

  • Mobile data, calls, messages, which are related to your business trips only

  • Broadband internet may only be covered in Estonian offices. Broadband internet outside Estonia, or at home, cannot be compensated even if used for business purposes.

Can development of my professional skills be considered a business expense?

Costs related to your professional training and knowledge-building can be considered as company expenses. Examples include:

  • Professional training (courses, seminars, etc.)

  • Professional certifications

  • Professional literature (books, magazines, e-content)

  • Access to professional databases

Make sure the services you pay for are actually applicable to your company’s business operations. University or other long-term courses are taxable.

Can I add food as a business expense?

Technically, you can, but according to Estonian law, these expenses are treated as fringe benefits, which means on top of the expense, additional taxes have to be paid (approx. 66%).

Therefore, please avoid adding food as a business expense. This also applies when traveling, and paying for food during traveling. However, if you pay yourself a daily allowance during your trip, food can be covered from this.

Can I add car fuel/personal car use as a business expense?

They can accepted as fuel bills if the consumption is reasonable considering the total amount of business-related kilometers. Please upload fuel bills for business drives, and also note the following details in the description field:

  • Destination

  • Client’s name

  • Business-related kilometers (one fuel bill can cover several business drives)

Your accountant’ll review the documents and details, and if anything should be corrected or changed we’ll let you know, so we can keep your accounting in order.

Can my phone bills be considered business expenses?

No, you cannot use a mobile phone bill as a company expense, unless it is specifically related to a certain business trip (e.g. buying a prepaid SIM while travelling for business purposes), or if you can really match the cost with your business purposes. For instance, if you buy a SIM card and use mobile internet for your work device. However in most cases you’ll be using your mobile for personal use as well, and this would be considered a fringe benefit and taxed accordingly. So it’s tough to truly separate business and personal use and arguably not worth it.

Can I pay for business conferences with my company’s money?

Direct costs related to participation in business-related events can be considered as company expenses, such as:

  • Workshops

  • Seminars

  • Conferences

  • Other business-related events

If you ask your customer or a business partner to attend an event with you, and your company agrees to pay for his/her ticket, then such cost is taxable with your company’s income tax.

Can I rent an office and buy furniture?

If you need an office or space to carry out your business activities, you can rent and pay for the following options:

  • Co-working space (no limits on location)

  • Part-time/temporary office space (no limits on location)

  • Permanent office space (in Estonia only)

  • Virtual office

Please keep the subscription/rental period for office space (and for co-working space) outside Estonia under 6 months (per country). This is to reduce the risk of the location becoming your company’s permanent residence.

Permanent office space is only allowed in Estonia, which means furnishing and permanent devices are not considered a business expense if your office isn’t in Estonia. If these expenses are kept under business expenses then they’re considered as personal expenses and taxed with fringe benefit tax.

So you shouldn’t purchase the following items:

  • Desks, chairs or other furniture

  • Coffee machines or other home appliances

  • TV

  • Desktop computers

You’re allowed to purchase the following items for your office:

  • Office-related utilities, cleaning, and other support services (only applicable when renting an office in Estonia)

  • Monitor(s)

  • Smartphones

  • Laptops

  • Tablets

Can I rent an office outside of Estonia for an extended period of time?

So while you are allowed to rent some office space (or co-working space) abroad by Estonian law, it’s better to rent only on a short-term basis (6 months maximum).

If an Estonian company rents office space in a country longer term, the local authorities in that country could claim the Estonian company has permanent residence and should start filing reports and following local compliance rules. However, if you claim there are no business operations and it’s an empty space, Estonian tax authorities might claim the cost isn’t justified from a business perspective and decide to tax it.

Why can’t I buy real estate using company money?

According to Estonian laws a company is allowed to buy a real estate and rent it out for business purposes both in Estonia and outside.

There are multiple issues involved. Firstly, the resources used to buy a real estate have to be earned from the core business activities, not taken as a loan. Otherwise public authorities and the bank may question the origin of this money and ask you to present additional written evidence to prove its legitimacy, even if it’s obvious to you. You might end up in a lengthy and bureaucratic procedure. In addition, they’d re-classify the company as a holding/real-estate company rather than a consulting business.

Secondly, if a company buys a real estate outside Estonia and rents it out for business purposes, the local authorities in the location of the real estate are likely to claim that the company has permanent establishment in that location and will require local compliance as well. It would go beyond the concept of a location-independent company and that’s where we cannot provide any further support.

In summary, the only way we could support this is to invest the funds which your company has earned from your core business activities into real estate in Estonia.

Is there a limit for the travel expenses that can be deducted?

There are no limitations on the total cost of travel expenses related to business trips, as long as your company has sufficient funds to afford them.

There are, however, limitations on daily allowance payments, the cost compensation which the company can pay to the board member/employee during business trips to cover everyday costs (normally mostly food costs). The rates are €50 per day for the first 15 days in a calendar month, and €32 per day for the rest of the period.

What is fringe benefit tax and when does it apply?

A fringe benefit is any expense/extra benefit which is not directly related to your business activity (e.g food) and is therefore taxed with fringe benefit tax.

Please be aware that food and drinks (including dinners) are considered fringe benefits and taxed with at a rate of around 70% in Estonia. In case you want to avoid additional taxes, you shouldn’t compensate dinner costs yourself.

Fringe benefit taxation is regulated by Income Tax Act and Social Tax Act in Estonia and unfortunately it’s taxable in all cases if you buy food or drinks for personal use with your corporate card, or reimburse similar costs paid by personal card.

Fringe benefit tax is a combination of income and social tax, and the rate of income tax on fringe benefits granted to a natural person is 20/80 (in 2016) of the taxable amount. The social tax is paid at a rate of 33% on fringe benefits and also on income tax calculated on fringe benefits.

As an example:

  • Price of fringe benefit: €100

  • Income tax: €25 = 100 x 20/80

  • Social tax: €41,25 = (100 + 25) x 33%

  • Total cost to the company €166,25 = 100 + 25 + 41,25

As you can see fringe benefits end up being rather expensive for the company.

Also, business lunches are considered as fringe benefits and your personal share is taxed both with income tax and social tax, while your customer’s/partner’s share is taxed with income tax only.

How can I repay a loan from my shareholder(s)?

If you as a shareholder in your company have lent money to your company, you can pay it back to your personal bank account when needed. In order to make a repayment of the loan provided to your company you can proceed as follows:

  1. Go to your company’s bank account to create a payment

  2. Enter the description of the payment as “Repayment of loan to shareholder”

  3. Make a payment to your personal bank account

How should I register my business trips?

If you’re traveling to meet your customers or business partners, attending a conference, or for other business purposes, you can cover the costs related to your business trips, including:

  • Flight/train/bus/ferry tickets

  • Local transportation (taxi, Uber, public transport, etc.)

  • Accommodation (hotel, Airbnb, etc.), including breakfast.

  • Temporary internet usage (hotel, airport, etc.)

  • Car rental abroad (rent, fuel, insurance, parking)

  • Usage of your personal car (valid for business trips only)

  • Travel insurance (valid for business trips only)

  • Daily allowance

Minibars and extra services need to be covered from your personal money.

Each business trip needs to be clearly defined with the following information:

  • Start date

  • End date

  • Place of departure

  • Destination(s)

  • Purpose of the business trip

Please fill in all information about your business trip using your self-service business trip feature, and upload all the related invoices and receipts collected during your trip.

There are no limits to the total time spent traveling abroad for business, provided it has a clear period of duration and you don’t stay in one place for more than six months. There are no geographical limitations to business trips. Registering holidays as business trips is not allowed.

Your trip to Estonia for setting up and managing your company is considered a business trip, and therefore all costs directly related to the trip (except the daily allowance) qualify as business expenses. If you already covered the trip-related costs using personal money, please submit the documents and we’ll process the receipts and calculate the total sum you can pay from your business account to your personal account as cost compensation.

What is and is not a business trip?

By default, business trips are considered short-term, with a specific business-related purpose and with actual business-related activities being carried out during the trip. Business trips are usually taken from a ‘home base’. A business trip typically involves meeting customers, project partners, attending conferences etc.

LeapIN has a lot of customers who are digital nomads. However, they do have at least a
short-term home base, and they only consider and declare short-term trips from there to the location of their customers/partners and back again as business trips.

For example, renting a co-working space (office for doing business) can be regarded as a business expense, but traveling from one co-working space to another doesn’t make it a business trip, as the main subjective criteria of a business trip aren’t met.

Regarding the daily allowance – our customers pay daily allowances for the days they were actually on a business trip. There is no common practice to consider their entire life during a year as a list of multiple business trips nor take advantage of the daily allowance for pretty much every day in the year.

Why can’t I reimburse airplane tickets for multi-country trips?

“Business trip” is a very regulated and narrow term: it has to involve a departure from your home base and a return to your home base, it is usually for a specific business purpose (meeting a customer, attending business related events etc) and it is usually within a limited period of time. As a bonus, when these trips are registered (and have a fixed beginning/end which can be proved e.g. with flight tickets) a tax-free daily allowance can be paid, and flights can be reimbursed.

However, if you just work and travel, then we can currently only accept accommodation as a business expense. Flights/transportation are not reimbursed unless they are related to attending a meeting/business related event etc (you’ll need to add a note when uploading expense documents about the purpose of the trip). So, if you travel and work on your projects in the meantime – these travel expenses are not covered.

Of course, these rules could change, and potentially in the future some kind of percentage will be fixed dictating how much of the accommodation related to work and travel can be accepted as a business expense and how much should be a private expense.

Can I add Taxify rides as a business expense?

Yes, you can.

Please use a Taxify business account for your business-related journeys.

And please make sure to send us monthly reports of your Taxify usage, as we need them for accounting purposes. You can download the report from your Taxify account in PDF format.

How should I report renting a car?

Last updated: April 16, 2018

The main rule for renting a car as a business expense is that the use of the car needs to be related to your work, and you must be making a business trip between different countries (not within one country).

For example, if you live in Berlin and need to meet a client in Hamburg, you cannot cover your car rental expenses from your business funds.

The reason for this is that operating and traveling in only one country (usually your home country), significantly increases the risk of your company needing to register as a tax payer in that country. In order to reduce the risk of this location becoming the permanent residence of your company, we don’t accept rental car and fuel expenses for trips of this nature.

You’re allowed to reimburse intra-country business trips when travelling by train, bus, or airline.

I work globally, why can’t I register all my travelling as business trips? (100 day limit)

Last updated: April 24, 2018

By default, the current Estonian legal act allows you to only classify trips which start from Estonia and return to Estonia, and are of a short-term nature, as business trips. However, while this applies well for companies which are physically run in Estonia, not many e-residents and digital nomads are able to fulfil this requirement.

Since Estonian companies run by e-residents don’t fall into the existing understanding of an Estonian company, there has been a push to reinterpret the legal act. This is in the hope that these companies could still be allowed to register some business trips and benefit from the rules of daily allowance payments, not be worse off compared to normal Estonian companies. The existing legal act has some room for interpretation, but only to a limited extent, ensuring daily allowances wouldn’t be paid incorrectly.

The majority of our customers have understood and accepted the limitations of this, and have utilised business trips and daily allowances in a modest and fair manner. However, we’ve seen that in some digital nomad blogs people perceive daily allowances as a tax-free way to pay cash out from the company, instead of paying a taxable salary or dividends. Unfortunately the latter practice is a red flag for Estonian Tax authorities and once discovered, these payments will be taxed both with income and social tax in Estonia (plus penalties). This is why it is something we cannot recommend or tolerate.

In order to clarify the boundaries of acceptable practice, we’ve initiated discussions with the Estonian Tax authorities. The starting point of the discussion is the existing legal act, which means zero business trips for e-resident companies. We’ll discuss with them based on our most common real-life cases to see how to classify them in a fair manner for all parties.

It will take time to reach an understanding and receive clear guidelines (which would also allow some business trips starting from somewhere other than Estonia) from the Tax authorities, but we are working on it. At the same time it’s already clear that the limits will not be extended too far to accommodate extreme cases such as year-long continuous travelling, and paying daily allowances for every single calendar day.

While digital nomads might like the sound of it, it won’t happen. And the 100 day maximum comes from the same discussion – it’s the theoretical maximum the boundaries could be extended to, taking into account the requirement that daily allowance can be paid for business-related trips and days only (not for weekends or personal trips), and in order to apply for the Estonian daily allowance, a person has to prove that he/she has stayed outside Estonia less time than in Estonia.

As an example, even if you travel from Hong Kong to Paris to London to Singapore and back to Hong Kong, and even if you claim each destination has a different business purpose, it only counts as one business trip (if at all), since there was no visit of Estonia involved. And that is why you could record a higher daily allowance rate only for the first 15 days of the entire trip, not per each month or trip, separately.

Is there a limit of days for multi-country business trips?

Lengthy trips to multiple countries are seen as a red flag by the Estonian Tax authorities, because current Estonian law only allows short term trips to be classified as business trips, rather than longer term stays in many countries. The authorities may perceive the daily allowance payments for longer trips as cash withdrawals from your company. This kind of activity is taxable, and the authorities may tax the allowances both with income and social tax in Estonia (including penalties).

We’d suggest that the longest time period for a trip of this nature would be around 100 days. If the daily allowance is paid for longer than this, the situation described above is more likely and the tax risk will be higher.

What is the longest a business trip can last?

We suggest the longest time period for a business trip would be around 100 days.

Can I add UBER rides as a business expense?

Yes, you can.

Please start using UBER for business if you don’t use it currently. It enables monthly summary statements about the trips, without applying for the monthly reports separately.

Once you’ve registered the account, please see ‘Billing’, then ‘Statements’ and finally ‘Download PDF’. They generate the statements at the beginning of the month for the previous month. It’ll save a lot of time if you take these steps, and then you can send us the summary statements going forward.

What is the daily allowance during business trips?

If you take a business trip outside Estonia, your company is allowed to pay a daily allowance, which is meant to cover your personal everyday costs (e.g. food, drinks etc) during the trip. These payments are tax-free.

All other business trip related costs like travelling, accommodation, local transport etc. are considered as business expenses and can be covered in addition to daily allowances.

There’s no need to present us receipts of your everyday costs made during a business trip when they’re covered by daily allowances.

The rates applied are as follows:

  • €50 per day for the first 15 days spent on business trips (maximum) in a calendar month

  • €32 per day for the rest of the month (or a combination of multiple trips)

As a prerequisite to paying the daily allowance, there has to be documented evidence of a business-related trip. There’s no obligation to spend all the received daily allowance, nor to keep receipts of expenses incurred.

Daily allowance cannot be paid for trips within one country.

If you take a business trip to Estonia, you can’t pay a daily allowance as Estonia is considered your home base.

When can I pay daily allowance (longer trips)?

If you travel for more than a month, you can transfer the daily allowance month by month. For example, if your trip lasts from May to July, then in May you can transfer May’s daily allowance, in June you can transfer June’s allowance, and so on.

Please note that the longest that a business trip can last is 100 days.

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