Question:

Employees often use their personal cell phones for church business. The church requires that they submit monthly expense reports and they’re reimbursed through an accountable plan. The church board wants to ditch the paperwork and just pay flat-dollar allowances to employees every month. Would that be taxable?

Answer: 

Yes, the allowances would be taxable because employees aren’t substantiating their cell phone costs to you. According to the IRS, your reimbursement can’t exceed employees’ expenses. Flat-dollar allowances don’t meet this standard, because you don’t know what employees’ plans cost. A better idea is to have them submit their monthly bills to you under an accountable plan.

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Clergy Financial Resources serves as a resource for clients to help analyze the complexity of clergy tax law, church payroll & HR issues. Our professionals are committed to helping clients stay informed about tax news, developments and trends in various specialty areas.

This article is intended to provide readers with guidance in tax matters. The article does not constitute, and should not be treated as professional advice regarding the use of any particular tax technique. Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information. Clergy Financial Resources and the author do not assume responsibility for any individual’s reliance upon the information provided in the article. Readers should independently verify all information before applying it to a particular fact situation, and should independently determine the impact of any particular tax planning technique. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.

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