Cell Phone Deductibility

IRS discusses easing of cell phone recordkeeping requirements [Information Letter 2008-0012]:

The IRS has issued an information letter in response to a question regarding the noted difficultly that states and localities are having drafting cell phone policies that comply with IRS recordkeeping requirements.

Under IRC §162(a), individuals may take deductions for all ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in carrying on a trade or business. The expenses are considered tax-free working condition fringe benefits, not subject to FITW, FICA, and FUTA, if they are incurred by an employee on behalf of an employer. Cell phones are currently included in the definition of “listed property,” as defined in IRC §280F(d)(4).

Expenses related to listed property may not be deducted under IRC §274(d), unless the employee substantiates by adequate records, or by sufficient evidence corroborating the employee’s own statement: (1) the amount of the expenses; (2) the time and place of the expenses; (3) the business purpose of the expenses; and (4) the business relationship to the employee of the persons involved in the expenses. In addition, employees must document their personal use of the property, and the employer must include such use in the employee’s income.

In the information letter, the IRS acknowledges the difficulty in documenting business cell phone use. The IRS is considering various changes to the cell phone substantiation requirements. There is currently legislation in Congress that would remove cell phones from the definition of listed property and allow employers to utilize a de minimus personal use policy.

The IRS is also considering possible regulatory changes that would provide a more streamlined substantiation process for cell phones.