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TAX

How to get tax deductions on household maintenance in Sweden

Tax season is coming, and here's how you can make sure you get deductions for household costs from cleaning to conversions.

Swedish banknotes and cleaning equipment
These may be some of the most important tax deductions to be aware of. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Sweden’s ROT and RUT tax deductions mean that you can get a significant chunk of money off the cost of a range of services, repairs and maintenance costs. 

The goal of the scheme is to boost employment in these sectors by lowering cost to the end-consumer and raising demand, and to reduce the risk of workers taking cash-in-hand jobs and not declaring their earnings.

RUT stands for cleaning, maintenance and laundry (rengöring, underhåll, tvätt) and applies to domestic work such as:

  • Cleaners, including professional cleaning before moving or selling a home
  • Gardening
  • Snow removal
  • Minor installations, repairs and services of home IT equipment
  • Repair of household appliances
  • Laundry of home textiles or clothes at a laundry facility (including the cost of transportation)
  • Furnishing services (including furniture assembly)
  • Transporting household goods to a secondhand shop or to storage facilities

On these services, you can get a 50 percent tax deduction with a maximum annual cap of 75,000 kronor which was increased from 50,000 as of January 1st 2021. This means you can get 50 percent off services worth up to 150,000 kronor.

ROT stands for repairs, conversions and extensions (reparation, ombyggnad, tillbyggnad) and covers this type of building work. However, building a new house or converting or extending a new house (one that is exempt from municipal property tax) is not covered.

On these services, you can get a 30 percent tax deduction, up to a maximum of 50,000 kronor.

It’s important to note that each individual can only receive a total of 75,000 kronor in ROT and RUT deductions per year. So if you’ve received the maximum of 50,000 kronor in ROT deductions, you can only receive 25,000 kronor for RUT, and if you’ve received the maximum of 75,000 kronor in RUT deductions you cannot get any deductions for ROT work. 

In order to claim ROT and RUT deductions, you need to be a Swedish taxpayer, aged over 18 and liable for tax during the tax year. Only the labour cost is deductible, not the cost of any materials or equipment, and you need to pay for the service electronically – this is so that the business is traceable.

To get the RUT deduction, you do not need to own the home (so renters are eligible) but you must live there all or part of the time. You can also get the deduction for work carried out in the home your parents live in, if you are the one who paid for the work.

For ROT deductions, you also need to own the property where the work is done (either owning the property or apartment itself, or a bostadsrätt) and live in it at least some of the time – so your primary home and any secondary residence or summer house are eligible, but not a property you rent out.

The work cannot be done by a family member.

This maximum amounts listed above are calculated per person rather than per household, so if there is more than one adult living at the same address, you can each use this amount, but if you own multiple properties you do not have a separate maximum for each property.

It’s the contractor, or the person providing the work, who should make the deduction on your invoice, but you should  keep track of how much of each deduction you receive over the tax year (you can do this by logging into Skatteverket, the Swedish Tax Agency).

If you know you’ve reached the ceiling for your deductions, you should let them know so that they can make out your invoice without the deductions.

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For members

RENTING

Five tricks Swedes use to avoid the long wait for rental apartments

The official waiting time for apartments in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö varies between three and eleven years. But Swedes have their own tricks for jumping the queue.

Five tricks Swedes use to avoid the long wait for rental apartments

There’s no requirement for landlords or renters to use the queuing systems run by the municipalities in the big cities, but most of the big ones do, the intention being to reduce corruption and increase fairness in the rental market. 

The Stockholm Housing Agency, or bostadsförmedlingen, has a queue between seven and eleven years long. Boplats Gothenburg has an average wait of 6.4 years, and Boplats Syd in Malmö has an average waiting time of nearly three years.

According to Kristina Wahlgren, a journalist at Hem & Hyra, Sweden’s leading rental property magazine, the system puts foreigners and recent arrivals to Sweden at a significant disadvantage. 

“It’s extremely difficult if you are from another country. You don’t have any contacts, and it’s quite difficult to understand if you haven’t grown up in this culture,” she says of the system. “There are some quite subtle aspects, and there’s vänskapskorruption [giving special advantage to friends]. ” 

Listen to a discussion about Swedish queue systems on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Obviously, the biggest advantage faced by locals in Sweden is that they normally joined the queue the moment they turned 17, so by the time they’re looking for an apartment as a young adult, they’re already near the front. 

But even for new arrivals in Sweden, it’s possible to wait a much shorter time if you know the tricks, says Wahlgren, who has been nominated for Sweden’s Guldspaden journalism prize for an investigation into how Malmö finds housing for homeless people. 

Kristina Wahlgren, a reporter for the Hem & Hyra newspaper. Photo: Hem & Hyra

1.  Apply for more expensive new-build apartments to start off with 

If you’ve got a good enough salary, and are willing to pay high rent for your first few years in Sweden, this can make it easier to get an apartment, as there is less competition for more expensive, new-build apartments, Wahlgren says.

“If you’re willing to pay high rent, then you can get an apartment within a couple of months [in Malmö]. If you want a cheaper apartment, it can take years. So it’s quite a big difference.”

2. Rather than wait for your perfect apartment, take what’s available and then swap 

The rules recently got a little stricter, but it’s still relatively easy to swap between apartments once you have a first-hand contract. There’s even a website, Lägenhetsbyte, which acts as an interface. 

This means, if you use the method above, and decide to rent a more expensive new-build apartment with a shorter queue, you can then downgrade to a cheaper apartment with someone who is after somewhere newer and swankier.

Rental queues are also shorter in less desirable areas of Sweden’s cities. For example, the waiting list in Norra Hissingen in Gothenburg is only five years, half what it is in Majorna. It can be quicker to make do with living in a relatively dreary area, and then swap with somewhere better, than to insist from the start on an apartment in your dream location. 

“If you can’t wait for the right department, just take the one that you get, then you can keep on looking and when you do have a lease, you can change the lease with someone else,” Wahlgren says. 

To change apartment, you need to have a so-called “acceptable reason”, such as needing a bigger or smaller apartment. With any luck, your landlord should accept the swap. If they refuse you can challenge their decision at your local hyresnämnden or “rental tribunal”.  

3. Use the tricks for contacting landlords directly  

Landlords in Sweden are not required to use the municipal rental queues to find their tenants, and if a suitable tenant presents themselves just as an apartment becomes free, they may prefer to take someone they know.

This is particularly the case with the smaller, private landlords. It’s possible to find lists of private landlords online, such as here. But Wahlgren recommends putting in a bit of legwork.

“One way to find who owns an apartment block, is to just go around and check on the buildings for the names of the landlords, and look in the stairwells for the number of the landlord’s agent.” 

Once you have the number, you have to ring both regularly, at least once a month, and also strategically. 

“It’s important to call at the right time,” Wahlgren says. “Because normally apartment rentals end at the turn of the month, so that’s when you’re going to call. You don’t call on the 15th, you call on the 31st or the 1st of the month.”

4. Exploit all the friends and contacts that you have 

When someone hands in their notice on a rental agreement, they may try to shorten their notice by finding a replacement for the landlord, or they might find a replacement simply as a favour. This is why it’s important to ask your friends and work colleagues if they know of any apartments becoming free. 

“If they use the municipal queue, they have to follow the rules. This way, they can choose their own tenants,” Wahlgren says of the appeal of this to landlords. “If you’re a nice person, you might be able to just talk your way into an apartment.” 

5. Be a student 

“If you’re a student, there are special housing companies in the university cities, different foundations that rent out apartments,” Wahlgren says. But then you have to study.” 

Illegal ways of getting an apartment

All of these ways of getting a rental apartment are legal, but there are some ways of getting a rental apartment more quickly which are not.

1. Paying a fee

You may also find landlords or intermediaries on websites such as Blocket, who ask for a one-off payment to jump a rental queue, or get a rental apartment. This is illegal. “You can lose your money, you can lose the apartment, and in the worst case, you can go to prison,” warns Wahlgren.

2. Getting an illegal subtenancy 

It’s perfectly legal to rent out your rental apartment to someone else for a period, if you have a valid reason for doing so and your landlord agrees. But such is the pressure to get housing that a market has sprung up in illegal subletting. Before signing a contract for a sublet, make sure that the landlord who owns the property has agreed to it. 

3. Bribing someone running the queue 

There have been cases of people working for municipalities logging into the housing queue and altering it, either as a favour to their friends, or for money. This is fairly rare, and in the unlikely event that someone offers to do this for you, it’s best to decline. 

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