1 Taxing FRINGE BENEFITS 2014 A payroll professional s guide to getting it right in tax year 2014.
2 Table of Contents Introduction: Chapter 1: Chapter 2: Chapter 3: Chapter 4: Why Worry? Fringe Benefits Overview Fringe Benefits Glossary Taxation and Exemptions Exemptions List This guide is provided as is without warranty of any kind. It is not intended to provide legal or tax advice. Ascentis has taken reasonable steps to ensure that this information is accurate and timely. Please consult with an employment law or tax attorney with questions that pertain to your unique business environment and industry.
3 Why Worry? Under-reported and non-taxed fringe benefits is an area of tax income that has been often overlooked, and even misunderstood, by many businesses. If you re confused about how fringe benefits are defined by IRS tax law, let alone how they are taxed, you re not alone. Last year the IRS imposed $6,848,308 in civil penalties for non-compliance of the proper payment and reporting of employment taxes, including those from fringe benefits. The IRS is working diligently to decrease the amount of uncollected revenues. As a result the probability that your business will be involved in an employment tax audit has never been greater. Employers are liable for failing to withhold employment taxes for fringe benefits. Per tax code 3403, employers are fined 25% if the income is supplemental to wages and is less than one million dollars in a single tax year. When wages are in excess of one million dollars, the fine increases to 39.6%. In addition, the employer is also liable for OASDI taxes, Medicare taxes, and an additional Medicare tax of 0.9% on wages exceeding $200,000. This guide will help you have a more thorough understanding of what fringe benefits are, and how they are to be taxed (or what tax exemptions may be in place), in order to remain in compliance of tax laws and avoid civil penalties for non-compliance.
4 1 - Fringe Benefits Overview What are fringe benefits? A fringe benefit is any form of payment in exchange for the performance of services. Who can receive fringe benefits? Any person who performs services for you can receive fringe benefits. This is not limited to employees. A person may perform services for you as an independent contractor, partner, or director. The person who performs services for you is considered the recipient of a fringe benefit provided for those services. Are Fringe Benefits Taxable? Any fringe benefit you provide is taxable and must be included in the recipient's pay unless the law specifically exempts it. Who is liable for the taxation? Any person who provides a fringe benefit to someone else as a form of payment for the performance of services is liable for the taxation of the fringe benefit. You are considered the provider of a fringe benefit even if a third party, such as your client or customer, provides the benefit to your employee for services the employee performs for you. Accident and health benefits This is an arrangement that provides benefits for your employees, their spouses, their dependents, and their children (under age 27) in the event of personal injury or sickness. The plan may be insured or noninsured and does not need to be in writing.
5 2- Fringe Benefits Glossary Achievement awards Tangible personal property you give to an employee as an award for either length of service or safety achievement. Adoption services An adoption assistance program is a separate written plan of an employer that meets all of the following requirements: Benefits employees who qualify under rules set up by you, which do not favor highly compensated employees or their dependents It does not pay more than 5% of its payments during the year for shareholders or owners (or their spouses or dependents). You give reasonable notice of the plan to eligible employees. Employees provide reasonable substantiation that payments or reimbursements are for qualifying expenses. Athletic facilities The athletic facility must be located on premises you own or lease. De minimus A de minimis benefit is any property or service you provide to an employee that has so little value (taking into account how frequently you provide similar benefits to your employees) that accounting for it would be unreasonable or administratively impracticable.
6 2- Fringe Benefits Glossary Dependent care assistance Services you pay for or provide to an employee under a dependent care assistance program that covers only your employees. The services must be for a qualifying person's care and must be provided to allow the employee to work. Educational assistance Amounts you pay for your employees' education expenses. These expenses include the cost of books, equipment, fees, supplies, and tuition. However, these expenses do not include the cost of a course or other education involving sports, games, or hobbies, unless the education: Has a reasonable relationship to your business, or is required as part of a degree program. Education expenses do not include the cost of tools or supplies (other than textbooks) your employee is allowed to keep at the end of the course. Nor do they include the cost of lodging, meals, or transportation. Employee discounts Price reduction you give an employee on property or services you offer to customers in the ordinary course of the line of business in which the employee performs substantial services. Employee stock options There are three stock options considered fringe benefits: incentive stock options, employee stock purchase plan options, and non statutory (nonqualified) stock options.
7 2- Fringe Benefits Glossary Employer-provided cell phones A cell phone primarily for non compensatory business purposes if there are substantial business reasons for providing the phone. Examples of substantial business reasons include the employer's need to contact the employee at all times for work-related emergencies, a requirement that the employee be available to speak with clients at times when the employee is away from the office, and when there is a need to speak with clients located in other time zones at times outside the employee's normal workday. Group-term life insurance coverage General death benefit that is not included in income provided to a group of 10 or more employees which provides an amount of insurance to each employee based on a formula that prevents individual selection. This formula must use factors such as the employee's age, years of service, pay, or position. Health savings accounts An account owned by a qualified individual who is generally your employee or former employee. Any contributions that you make to an HSA become the employee's property and cannot be withdrawn by you. Contributions to the account are used to pay current or future medical expenses of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent. The medical expenses must not be reimbursable by insurance or other sources and their payment from HSA funds (distribution) will not give rise to a medical expense deduction on the individual's federal income tax return.
8 2- Fringe Benefits Glossary Lodging on your business premises Lodging furnished on your business premises, for the employers convenience and accepted by the employee as a condition of employment. Meals Any occasional meal or meal money you provide to an employee if it has so little value (taking into account how frequently you provide meals to your employees) that accounting for it would be unreasonable or administratively impracticable. Moving expense reimbursements Any amount you directly or indirectly give to an employee, (including services furnished in kind) as payment for, or reimbursement of, moving expenses. No-additional-cost services This exclusion applies to a service you provide to an employee if it does not cause you to incur any substantial additional costs. The service must be offered to customers in the ordinary course of the line of business in which the employee performs substantial services. Retirement planning services Retirement planning advice or information you provide to your employee or his or her spouse which may include general advice and information on retirement. However, the exclusion does not apply to services for tax preparation, accounting, legal, or brokerage services.
9 2- Fringe Benefits Glossary Transportation (commuting) benefits Benefits provided to employees for their personal transportation such as commuting to and from work which include a ride in a commuter highway vehicle between the employee s home and workplace, a transit pass, qualified parking and/or qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement. You can exclude the value of any de minimis transportation benefit you provide to an employee from the employee's wages. A de minimis transportation benefit is any local transportation benefit you provide to an employee if it has so little value (taking into account how frequently you provide transportation to your employees) that accounting for it would be unreasonable or administratively impracticable. For example, it applies to occasional transportation fare you give an employee because the employee is working overtime if the benefit is reasonable and is not based on hours worked. Tuition reduction Reduction in tuition expenses offered to an employee of an educational institution. Working condition benefits Property and services you provide to an employee so that the employee can perform his or her job. It applies to the extent the employee could deduct the cost of the property or services as a business expense or depreciation expense if he or she had paid for it. The employee must meet any substantiation requirements that apply to the deduction.
10 3 - Taxation and Exemptions* Type of Fringe Benefit Income Tax Withholding Social Security and Medicare** **(including Additional Medicare Tax when wages are paid in excess of $200,000) Accident and health benefits Achievement awards Exempt 1,2, except for longterm care benefits provided through a flexible spending or similar arrangement. Exempt 1 up to $1,600 for qualified plan awards ($400 for nonqualified awards). Exempt, except for certain payments to S corporation employees who are 2% shareholders. Adoption assistance Exempt 1,3 Taxable Athletic facilities Exempt if substantially all use during the calendar year is by employees, their spouses, and their dependent children and the facility is operated by the employer on premises owned or leased by the employer. De minimis benefits Exempt Exempt Dependent care assistance Exempt 3 up to certain limits, $5,000 ($2,500 for married employee filing separate return). Educational assistance Exempt up to $5,250 of benefits each year. See IRS Publication 15-B, section: Educational Assistance. *Per IRS Publication 15-B (2014), Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits
11 3 - Taxation and Exemptions* Type of Fringe Benefit Income Tax Withholding Social Security and Medicare** **(including Additional Medicare Tax when wages are paid in excess of $200,000) Employee discounts Employee stock options Exempt 3 up to certain limits. See IRS Publication 15-B, section, Section: Employee Discounts. See IRS Publication 15-B, section, Section: Employee Stock Options. Employer-provided cell phones Group-term life insurance coverage Health savings accounts (HSAs) Lodging on your business premises Exempt if provided primarily for non compensatory business purposes. Exempt Exempt for qualified individuals up to the HSA contribution limits. See IRS Publication 15-B, section, Section: Health Savings Accounts. Exempt 1 if furnished for your convenience as a condition of employment. Exempt 1,4, 7 up to cost of $50,000 of coverage. (Special rules apply to former employees.) Meals Exempt if furnished on your business premises for your convenience. Exempt if de minimis. *Per IRS Publication 15-B (2014), Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits
12 3 - Taxation and Exemptions* Type of Fringe Benefit Income Tax Withholding Social Security and Medicare** Moving expense reimbursements Exempt 1 if expenses would be deductible if the employee had paid them. No-additional-cost services Exempt 3 Exempt 3 **(including Additional Medicare Tax when wages are paid in excess of $200,000) Retirement planning services Exempt 5 Exempt 5 Transportation (commuting) benefits Exempt 1 up to certain limits if for rides in a commuter highway vehicle and/or transit passes ($130), qualified parking ($250), or qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement6 ($20). See IRS Publication 15-B, section, Section: Transportation Commuting. Tuition reduction Exempt if de minimis. Exempt 3 if for undergraduate education (or graduate education if the employee performs teaching or research activities). Working condition benefits Exempt Exempt *Per IRS Publication 15-B (2014), Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits
13 4 - Exemptions List Exemptions 1 Exemption does not apply to S corporation employees who are 2% shareholders. 2 Exemption does not apply to certain highly compensated employees under a self-insured plan that favors those employees. 3 Exemption does not apply to certain highly compensated employees under a program that favors those employees. 4 Exemption does not apply to certain key employees under a plan that favors those employees. 5 Exemption does not apply to services for tax preparation, accounting, legal, or brokerage services. 6 If the employee receives a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement in a qualified bicycle commuting month, the employee cannot receive commuter highway vehicle, transit pass, or qualified parking benefits in that same month. 7 You must include in your employee's wages the cost of group-term life insurance beyond $50,000 worth of coverage, reduced by the amount the employee paid toward the insurance. Report it as wages in boxes 1, 3, and 5 of the employee's Form W-2. Also, show it in box 12 with code C. The amount is subject to social security and Medicare taxes, and you may, at your option, withhold federal income tax. *Per IRS Publication 15-B (2014), Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits
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