Your employer may choose to pay a tax-free travel allowance for food, accommodation and petty acquisitions in connection with work-related travel. The employee must be away for at least 24 hours. Travel allowances are tax-free and are paid according to standard rates. This is also called subsistence allowance.

Rates per day 2020 2019
Accommodation DKK 223 DKK 214

Food and petty acquisitions for other salary earners

DKK 521

DKK 509

Food for tourist drivers when driving in Denmark DKK 75 DKK 75

Food for tourist drivers when driving outside Denmark

DKK 150 DKK 150

Travel means that the employee has a temporary workplace, a normal place of residence and spends the night away from home.

Moreover, the distance and the work determine whether the employee is considered to be travelling.

Distance

The distance is assessed on the basis of whether the employee is able to travel between the normal place of residence and the temporary workplace by, for example, car, bus or train within a period of time which makes it possible for the employee to spend the night at home. The Danish Tax Agency (Skattestyrelsen) bases its assessment on the fastest means of transport on the relevant route. However, this is not the case for business travel. 

The assessment of the travel time will differ depending on whether the employee has chosen the temporary workplace or whether the employer has ordered the employee to perform the work at the relevant location. In the former situation, the travel time will be assessed on the basis of the fastest means of transport, which is almost always a car.

If the employer has ordered the employee to travel and has specified that the employee must use a specific means of transport and if the employer pays the travelling expenses, we assess the travel time on the basis of this means of transport if used by the employee.

Work

Primarily, we focus on the period of time during which the employee works at the workplace as well as on the nature of the workplace. The shorter the period, the more likely it is that it is a temporary workplace.

The employer's work-based instructions form part of our assessment of whether it constitutes travel. This includes situations where the employee is:

  • Required to be on call, and therefore has to stay at or in the vicinity of the temporary workplace during the on-call duty period.
  • Required to remain at a course location in the evening because the extracurricular activities taking place in the evening serve a work-related team-building purpose.
  • Working long or variable hours so that there is a short period of time between the end of a working day and the start of the next.

Our assessment is individual for each employee

Our assessment is always individual and strictly requires that the employee spends the night at home if possible. In connection with work performed for a limited period of time, we expect the employee to accept a longer distance between the normal place of residence and the temporary workplace. This means that it is not sufficient reason that the travelling is difficult, over a long distance, impractical or expensive in terms of transport expenses.

Salary earners as well as members of or assistants to, for example, boards, committees, commissions or councils who do not receive fees or who do not receive fees that constitute A-income can get a food allowance.

Free food and free meals

Free food means that an employer or the employer's business connections provide free food. In order words, the employee has not incurred any expenses for food. If one or two main meals are provided only, these constitute free meals.

If an employee gets free food or free meals, the food allowance rate must be reduced by the value of the free food or free meals.

Free food 75%
Free breakfast 15%
Free lunch 30%
Free dinner 30%

As concerns tourist drivers, the rates should not be reduced by the value of free food while travelling as tourist drivers get a maximum allowance of DKK 75 when driving in Denmark and DKK 150 when driving outside Denmark.

Food allowance

A tax-free food allowance covers all undocumented travelling expenses for meals and petty acquisitions, e.g. a newspaper, cup of coffee or local transport expenses.

The food allowance is disbursed on a per-day basis. This means that the tax-free food allowance is triggered when the employee has been travelling for 24 hours. Subsequently, the allowance is payable per commenced hour of travel.

If, for example, you have travelled for 20 hours, it is not possible for you to obtain a tax-free allowance. If, on the other hand, you have travelled for 40 hours, you can get the daily rate plus 16/24 of the daily rate.

If you get food expenses covered as per account rendered, you can also get a tax-free allowance of up to 25% of the food allowance rate for your overall work travel.

If you receive fees that are taxed as B-income, you cannot get a tax-free food allowance.

Five important factors for obtaining tax-free travel allowance:

12-month time limitation
The employee can only get a tax-free allowance for food and petty acquisitions at the standard rate during the first 12 months in which the employee is working at a temporary workplace. Holidays, days off, business trips or sick days do not count towards the 12-month period.

The 12-month time limitation applies to the individual workplace. A new 12-month period therefore begins if an employee switches to a new temporary workplace (switch of workplace).

The employee switches temporary workplace if the employee moves to a new temporary workplace located at least eight kilometres from the former workplace via normal transport routes even though he or she keeps working for the same employer on the same work project.
When the temporary workplace is moved
The 12-month time limitation does not apply in cases where temporary workplaces are moved a distance of at least eight kilometres when such move is made in line with the performance/completion of the work. This is the case, among other things, in connection with motorway, bridge or railway projects.

The 12-month time limitation does not apply if the temporary workplace is constantly moving. This is the case, among other things, in connection with working on board ships, including fishing vessels.

If the temporary workplace moves, the employee can also get a tax-free allowance after the first 12 months at the temporary workplace.
Returning to a previous temporary workplace
If the employee returns to a previous workplace where he or she has worked temporarily, a new 12-month period will start if the employee has worked for a period of at least 40 consecutive working days at the other workplace.

This means that the employee must have worked for a minimum of 40 consecutive working days at workplace number two. Holidays, days off, business trips or sick days are not included in the 40 working days.
After 12 months
When the 12-month time limitation expires at a temporary workplace, the employee can no longer get a tax-free allowance at the standard rates.

If the employee still travels to a temporary workplace, the employee can have expenses incidental to food and petty acquisitions at the workplace covered as per account rendered or through the provision of free food. SKAT assesses in each specific case whether the travelling constitutes actual travelling and whether the workplace is still temporary only.
Special information on one-day travelling
Employees cannot have expenses incidental to, for example, food covered on a one-day journey, i.e. travelling without overnight stay, via the food allowance or the 25% allowance. Instead, the expenses must be covered as per account rendered or as free food/free meals provided.

Salary reduction and allowances

An employer cannot pay tax-free travel allowance if a salary reduction agreement has been made between the employer and employee to reduce the employee's salary. In return, the travel allowance is paid out to the employee, even if it is a general salary reduction that takes into account the annual average travel expenses. This strengthening of the rules applies to agreements made or changed from 20 September 2012.

Salary earners who are not entitled to food allowances

Some salary earners cannot get tax-free food allowance as they are covered by special tax schemes.

These salary earners include:

  • Registerd commercial fishermen who in the relevant income year have chosen to clain a sea-day allowance per day at sea.
  • Those who work on ships registered in the Danish International Ship Register (DIS) and others who can rely on the rules set out in the Danish Taxation of Seafarers Act (Sømandsbeskatningsloven) - this also applies to seafarers covered by section 3 of the Act.
  • Salary earners who receive various supplements and additional benefits because they are expatriated by the Danish State.
  • Salary earners who receive benefits, for example during training or education.

Salary earners as well as members of and assistants to, for example, boards, committees, commissions or councils who do not receive fees or fees that constitute A-income can get an accommodation allowance.

What does the accommodation allowance cover?

An accommodation allowance covers all undocumented accommodation expenses while travelling, e.g. overnight stay at a hotel, in a caravan or private accommodation.

The employee can only get a tax-free accommodation allowance if the allowance does not exceed the daily rate of DKK 223 in 2020 (DKK 219 in 2019).

If the accommodation expenses exceed the accommodation allowance, the employee can instead have the documented accommodation expenses covered as per account rendered.

No accommodation allowance is disbursed to persons who:

  • receive B-income
  • transport goods or people
  • work on board ships, fishing vessels, aircraft and facilities which are used for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources.

Payment of accommodation allowance

The accommodation allowance is paid on a per-day basis when you are travelling as an employee. This means that the tax-free accommodation allowance is triggered when the you have been travelling for 24 hours. Subsequently, the allowance is payable per full day.

You cannot get the tax-free accommodation allowance if the accommodation expenses are fully or partially covered as per account rendered or if you have been provided with completely or partially free accommodation during the travelling, e.g. an apartment, room or caravan. You cannot simultaneously claim depreciation on equipment, e.g. a caravan, which you are using for overnight accommodation while travelling.

Salary reduction and allowances

An employer cannot pay tax-free accommodation allowance if a salary reduction agreement has been made between the employer and employee to reduce the employee's salary. In return, the accommodation allowance is paid out to the employee, even if it is a general salary reduction that takes into account the annual average travel expenses. This strengthening of the rules applies to agreements made or changed from 20 September 2012.

Salary earners who cannot get food allowance

Some salary earners cannot get a tax-free accommodation allowance as they are covered by special tax schemes.

These salary earners include:

  • Registered commercial fishermed who in the relevant income year have chosen to claim a sea-day allowance per day at sea.
  • Those who work on ships registered in the Danish International Ship Register (DIS) and others who can rely on the rules set out in the Danish Taxation of Seafarers Act - this also applies to seafarers covered by Section 3 of the Act.
  • Salary earners who receive various supplements and additional benefits because they are expatriated by the Danish State.
  • Salary earners who receive benefits, for example during training or education.

The employer must check that all conditions entitling the employee to a tax-free travel allowance are met.

Check of employer

The employer must check the journey's business purpose, number of business travel days, including when the journey began and ended, and the calculation of the travel allowance, including the rates used.

If the journey does not meet the conditions, the travel allowance is considered taxable A-income for the employee. This also applies if the employer has not checked the journey. Instead, the employee is entitled to a deduction from the taxable income.

Payment of travel allowance

The employer can divide the allowance into a tax-free part (the rates) and a taxable part (the amount exceeding the rates) that the employer includes in the salary. This division must be made at the time of disbursement.

Rates

If the allowance is paid and it is less than the rates, the allowance is considered free of tax. Additionally, the employee is entitled to a deduction corresponding to the difference between the disbursed amount and the standard rate.

If the travelling expenses exceed the tax-free travel allowance, the employee is entitled to a deduction corresponding to the difference between the documented actual expenses and the disbursed allowance.

If the employee receives a fixed monthly or annual tax-free travel allowance, the allowance is considered taxable A-income.

Covering expenses for food and petty acquisitions

The employee can have expenses for food and petty acquisitions covered either by a tax-free food allowance or by combining the tax-free food allowance with free food/free meals and thereby a reduction of the food rate. The employee can also choose to have the expenses covered by as per account rendered - possibly combined with the rule of 25% allowance for petty acquisitions.

Offsetting against gross salary

The employee is not entitled to a tax-free travel allowance if the allowance is offset against the gross salary (salary before tax) as already agreed between the employee and the employer. This means that the employee is not entitled to a tax-free allowance if the salary is adjusted from time to time in relation to the disbursed travel allowance.

However, the employee and the employer can agree that the employee is given a generally lower salary and also a tax-free travel allowance.

Documentation is important

Payment of tax-free travel allowance and employer checks must be properly documented. Documentation implies that the above-mentioned information appears from the employers accounting vouchers and is visibly checked by the employer, for example by means of signature, stamp or error correction.

Consequently, it is important that the employee provides correct information for the employer to be able to do the check.

You are not required to use a certain form. But it may be an advantage to use the same method from time to time, for example, in the form of a table or a pre-printed travelling expenses report.

The following contains five examples of travel situations. The examples are guiding and show how and when the employee can get a tax-free travel allowance. The assessment of when the employee is travelling takes place according to an individual assessment.

Example 1: Change in working hours

Salary earner Michael lives in Stubbekøbing and is temporarily working on a construction project in Kalundborg. The distance by car is approx. 128 km and the travel time is 1 hour and 48 minutes. Michael works five days a week from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm. Michael is not travelling, and this is also the case if he decides to spend the night by the temporary workplace.

The deadline for handing over the construction work which Michael is working on expires shortly, and the construction work is delayed. A's employer has therefore ordered the employees to work overtime in order to complete the construction work on time.

As a consequence, Michael starts working from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm on Monday to Thursday and from 6.00 am to 2.00 pm on Fridays. He leaves Stubbekøbing on Monday morning and returns on Friday after the end of the working day. From Monday to Friday, Michael spends the night in his caravan close to the temporary workplace.

The change in Michael's working conditions (working hours) does not mean that Michael is travelling from the time he leaves his home on Monday morning until he returns on Friday afternoon. The reason for this is that he is required to work 12 hours per day from Monday to Thursday and to come to work at 6.00 am on Friday morning for a short period of time only and that the work cannot be deemed to be physically strenuous.

Michael's working conditions mean that it is not deemed impossible for him to return to Stubbekøbing for the night.

Example 2: On-call allowance

Peter lives in Odense. On Tuesday, Peter's employer dispatches Peter to Vejle where he is to install a machine at an enterprise which is the employer's customer. Peter is the only employee the employer has who knows this machine.

Peter begins his working day at 8.00 am by picking up the machine at the employer's premises in Odense. At 8.30 am, he drives his employer's car to the enterprise in Vejle where he spends the rest of the working day installing the machine and instructing the enterprise staff in how to use it.

The machine is new and is to operate round the clock. Peter's employer has therefore asked Peter to be on call and spend the evening and night in Vejle so that he can respond quickly in the event of problems.

Peter is called in to inspect the machine Wednesday night at 1.00 am. At 7.00 am on Wednesday, Peter is needed to adjust the machine. This work takes some time, and Peter therefore does not return to his employer's premises in Odense until 11.00 am on Wednesday when he returns the employer's car and continues working until the end of the normal working day at 4.00 pm.

The distance from Peter's place of residence in Odense to the enterprise in Vejle is approx. 75 km. The trip takes about 50 minutes by car. Peter is travelling from the time he leaves his permanent workplace on Tuesday until he returns to his permanent workplace on Wednesday. The reason for this is that his working conditions - the on-call duty - made it impossible for him to go home for the night.

Peter's employer has paid for the overnight stay at a hotel in Vejle (free accommodation). Peter therefore cannot get a tax-free accommodation allowance. However, as Peter has paid for his own food during his stay in Vejle, his employer can cover his food expenses tax free, either via a food allowance at the standard rate or as per account rendered.

Example 3: Allowance in connection with variable working hours

Thomas lives in Nykøbing Falster and is temporarily working on a roadworks project near Roskilde each day from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm. The distance from Nykøbing Falster to Roskilde is approx 111 km, and the trip takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes by car.

In the course of the week, Thomas gets new working hours. The roadworks must now be carried out at night when there is less traffic. On Wednesday, Thomas therefore first works from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm, and then he comes back to work again at 11.00 pm in order to work until 7.00 am on Thursday morning.

Thomas' working hours in the week in question are therefore as follows:

Monday from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm

Tuesday from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm

Wednesday from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm (leaving Nykøbing F. at 5.45 am)

Thursday from 11.00 pm to Friday 7.00 am, at which time Thomas's weekend starts.

It is possible for Thomas to go home for the night after the end of the working day on the following days: Monday at 3.00 pm, Tuesday at 3.00 pm, Thursday at 7.00 am and Friday at 7.00 am. Thomas is therefore not travelling on these days.

On Wednesday, it is not possible for Thomas to go home for the night and return to Roskilde before the next working period starts at 11.00 pm. Thomas therefore has to stay in Roskilde to rest between 3.00 pm and 11.00 pm, and his employer can pay a tax-free travel allowance for Thomas' food and accommodation expenses in this context.

This means that Thomas is travelling from the time he leaves home on Wednesday morning at 5.45 am and until he returns to his home on Thursday morning at 8.15 am.

Example 4: Free food and accommodation

Sophie lives in Vordingborg where she is employed in an enterprise which has just implemented a major reorganisation. Sophie has therefore been transferred to a new department where the employees have not previously worked together.

The employer therefore sends Sophie and her new colleagues off to attend a staff seminar in Sorø from Monday to Wednesday. The seminar is scheduled to last from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm on Monday and Tuesday and from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm on Wednesday. The purpose of the seminar is plan the new department's work projects for the coming year as well as to build team spirit in the new department.

The team-building activities take place on Monday and Tuesday evening and are based on art as a form of expression. A lecture is given by an artist, and Sophie and her colleagues are also required to work together as a team in artistic workshops.

The distance from Vordingborg to Sorø is approx. 60 km, and the trip takes close to an hour by car.

On Monday and Tuesday, it is not possible for Sophie to go home for the night due to the team-building activities in the evenings. This means that Sophie is travelling from the time she leaves home on Monday morning at 8.00 am and until she returns to her home on Wednesday at 5.00 pm.

Sophie gets free food and accommodation, and therefore cannot get a tax-free travel allowance. However, she can get 25% of the food allowance rate to cover petty acquisitions. If Sophie had not been provided with free food, she would have got a tax-free food allowance.

Example 5: Allowance/deduction in connection with rules on rest periods

Martin is a self-employed haulage contractor and lives in Skanderborg. He has several employees, but he also works as a driver himself. Martin's haulage contracting business is located in Aarhus.

Martin is to transport potted plants to a medium-sized town in central Sweden. Martin arrives at the business premises in Aarhus at 7.00 am on Monday morning, where he is to pick up the truck and the necessary paperwork. Martin leaves Aarhus at 8.00 am, and he is now in a temporary workplace (the truck), as a workplace moving in line with the performance of the work is always deemed to be a temporary workplace. Martin's travelling starts on Monday at 8.00 am when he leaves his permanent workplace in Aarhus in the truck.

Martin first needs to pick up the potted plants at a nursery in Kolding. From there, he drives across Funen to Copenhagen and via the Øresund Bridge to Sweden. Along the way to the destination, Martin takes a break according to the applicable rules on driving times and rest periods. He reaches his destination on Monday evening. He stops at a service area, eats at a cafeteria and spends the night in the truck. First thing Tuesday morning, he unloads the potted plants at the recipient's premises. Then he starts the return trip to Denmark.

On the way home, he takes the ferry from Helsingborg to Elsinore as he needs to pick up a shipment in Hillerød. Martin is to transport these goods to Fåborg and unload them there. On his trip from Sweden, he takes the breaks he is required to take according to the rules on driving times and rest periods.

From Fåborg, he continues towards Aarhus. When he reaches Vejle at around 6 pm, his driving time is almost at an end. According to the rules on driving times and rest periods, Martin is now not allowed to drive any further that day, and he therefore stops to rest at the transport centre in Vejle.

Martin is approx. 40 km away from his home in Skanderborg. Due to the distance, it is therefore possible for Martin to get home, even though he has used up all his driving time and he is therefore no longer allowed to drive the truck.

Because it is possible for Martin to get home for the night, his travelling therefore ends on Tuesday when he stops to rest (in Vejle). Martin is not entitled to a travel allowance/deduction after this time. The fact that Martin's travelling has ended does not necessarily mean, however, that he is required to go home for the night. The tax rules do not stipulate that Martin is not allowed to stay with the truck, only that he is no longer entitled to a travel allowance/deduction.

Your employer may choose to pay you a tax-free transport allowance for business transport according to standard rates.

Please see our legal guide (in Danish) for further legal information.