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SR Client Question: Are business-issued cell phones considered a fringe benefit?

[1]The value of the business use of an employer-provided cell phone, provided primarily for non-compensatory business reasons, is excludable from an employee’s income as a working condition fringe benefit. Personal use of an employer-provided cell phone, provided primarily for non-compensatory business reasons, is excludable from an employee’s income as a de minimis fringe benefit.

An employer provides a cell phone primarily for non-compensatory business purposes if there are substantial business reasons for providing the cell phone. Examples of substantial business reasons include the employer’s:

  • Need to contact the employee at all times for work-related emergencies,
  • Requirement that the employee be available to speak with clients at times when the employee is away from the office, and
  • Need to speak with clients located in other time zones at times outside the employee’s normal workday.

You can’t exclude from an employee’s wages the value of a cell phone provided to promote goodwill of an employee, to attract a prospective employee, or as a means of providing additional compensation to an employee.

For additional information on the tax treatment of employer-provided cell phones, see Notice 2011-72, 2011-38 I.R.B. 407 [2] or contact a ShindelRock tax professional [3].