Wages subject to Federal employment taxes include all pay you give an employee for services performed. The pay may be in cash or in other forms. It
includes salaries, vacation allowances, bonuses, commissions, and fringe benefits. It does not matter how you measure or make the payments. Also,
compensation paid to a former employee for services performed while still employed is wages subject to employment taxes. See section 6 for a
discussion of tips and section 7 for a discussion of supplemental wages. Also, see section 15 for exceptions to the general rules for wages. Pub.
15-A, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide, provides additional information on wages and other compensation. Pub. 15-B, Employer's Tax
Guide to Fringe Benefits, provides information on other forms of compensation, including:
- Accident and health benefits
- Achievement awards
- Adoption assistance
- Athletic facilities
- De minimis (minimal) benefits
- Dependent care assistance
- Educational assistance
- Employee discounts
- Employee stock options
- Group-term life insurance coverage
- Lodging on your business premises
- Moving expense reimbursements
- No-additional-cost services
- Retirement planning services
- Transportation (commuting) benefits
- Tuition reduction
- Working condition benefits
Employee business expense reimbursements.
A reimbursement or allowance arrangement is a system by which you substantiate and pay the advances, reimbursements, and charges for your
employees' business expenses. How you report a reimbursement or allowance amount depends on whether you have an accountable or a nonaccountable plan.
If a single payment includes both wages and an expense reimbursement, you must specify the amount of the reimbursement.
These rules apply to all ordinary and necessary employee business expenses that would otherwise qualify for a deduction by the employee.
To be an accountable plan, your reimbursement or allowance arrangement must require your employees to meet all three of the following rules.
- They must have paid or incurred deductible expenses while performing services as your employees.
- They must adequately account to you for these expenses within a reasonable period of time.
- They must return any amounts in excess of expenses within a reasonable period of time.
Amounts paid under an accountable plan are not wages and are not subject to income tax withholding and payment of social security, Medicare, and
Federal unemployment (FUTA) taxes.
If the expenses covered by this arrangement are not substantiated or amounts in excess of expenses are not returned within a reasonable period of
time, the amount is treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan. This amount is subject to income tax withholding and payment of social security,
Medicare, and FUTA taxes for the first payroll period following the end of the reasonable period.
A reasonable period of time depends on the facts and circumstances. Generally, it is considered reasonable if your employees receive the advance
within 30 days of the time they incur the expense, adequately account for the expenses within 60 days after the expenses were paid or incurred, and
they return any amounts in excess of expenses within 120 days after the expense was paid or incurred. Also, it is considered reasonable if you give
your employees a periodic statement (at least quarterly) that asks them to either return or adequately account for outstanding amounts and they do so
within 120 days.
Payments to your employee for travel and other necessary expenses of your business under a nonaccountable plan are wages and are treated as
supplemental wages and subject to income tax withholding and payment of social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes. Your payments are treated as paid
under a nonaccountable plan if:
- Your employee is not required to or does not substantiate timely those expenses to you with receipts or other documentation or
- You advance an amount to your employee for business expenses and your employee is not required to or does not return timely any amount he or
she does not use for business expenses.
See section 7 for more information on supplemental wages.
Per diem or other fixed allowance.
You may reimburse your employees by travel days, or miles, or some other fixed allowance. In these cases, your employee is considered to have
accounted to you if the payments do not exceed rates established by the Federal Government. The 2001 standard mileage rate for auto expenses was 34.5
cents per mile. The rate for 2002 is 36.5 cents per mile.
The government per diem rates for meals and lodging in the continental United States are listed in
Pub. 1542, Per Diem Rates. Other than the amount of these expenses, your employees' business expenses must be substantiated (for example,
the business purpose of the travel or the number of business miles driven).
If the per diem or allowance paid exceeds the amounts specified, you must report the excess amount as wages. This excess amount is subject to
income tax withholding and payment of social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes. Show the amount equal to the specified amount (i.e., the nontaxable
portion) in box 12 of Form W-2 using code L.
Wages not paid in money.
If in the course of your trade or business you pay your employees in a medium that is neither cash nor a readily negotiable instrument, such as a
check, you are said to pay them "in kind." Payments in kind may be in the form of goods, lodging, food, clothing, or services. Generally, the
fair market value of such payments at the time they are provided is subject to income tax withholding and social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes.
However, noncash payments for household work, agricultural labor, and service not in the employer's trade or business are exempt from social
security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes. Withhold income tax on these payments only if you and the employee agree to do so. However, noncash payments for
agricultural labor, such as commodity wages, are treated as cash payments subject to employment taxes if the substance of the transaction is a cash
Reimbursed and employer-paid qualified moving expenses (those that would otherwise be deductible by the employee) are not includible in an
employee's income unless you have knowledge that the employee deducted the expenses in a prior year. Reimbursed and employer-paid nonqualified moving
expenses are includible in income and are subject to employment taxes and income tax withholding. For more information on moving expenses, see
Pub. 521, Moving Expenses.
Meals and lodging.
The value of meals is not taxable income and is not subject to income tax withholding and social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes if the meals
are furnished for the employer's convenience and on the employer's premises. The value of lodging is not subject to income tax withholding and social
security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes if the lodging is furnished for the employer's convenience, on the employer's premises, and as a condition of
"For the convenience of the employer" means that you have a substantial business reason for providing the meals and lodging other than to
provide additional compensation to the employee. For example, meals you provide at the place of work so an employee is available for emergencies
during his or her lunch period are generally considered to be for your convenience.
However, whether meals or lodging are provided for the convenience of the employer depends on all the facts and circumstances. A written statement
that the meals or lodging are for your convenience is not sufficient.
If over 50% of the employees who are provided meals on an employer's business premises receive these meals for the convenience of the employer, all
meals provided on the premises are treated as furnished for the convenience of the employer. If this 50% test is met, the value of the meals is
excludable for all employees and is not subject to income tax withholding or employment taxes.
For more information, see Pub. 15-B, Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits.
Health insurance plans.
If you pay the cost of an accident or health insurance plan for your employees, which may include an employee's spouse and dependents, your
payments are not wages and are not subject to social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes, or income tax withholding. Generally, this exclusion applies
to qualified long-term care insurance contracts. However, the cost of health insurance benefits must be included in the wages of S corporation
employees who own more than 2% of the S corporation (2% shareholders).
Archer medical savings accounts.
Your contributions to an employee's medical savings account (Archer MSA) are not subject to social security, Medicare, or FUTA taxes, or income tax
withholding if it is reasonable to believe at the time of payment of the contributions that they will be excludable from the income of the employee.
To the extent that it is not reasonable to believe they will be excludable, your contributions are subject to these taxes. Employee
contributions to their Archer MSAs through a payroll deduction plan must be included in wages and are subject to social security, Medicare, and FUTA
taxes, and income tax withholding.
Medical care reimbursements.
Generally, medical care reimbursements paid for an employee under an employer's self-insured medical reimbursement plan are not wages and are not
subject to social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes, or income tax withholding. See Pub. 15-B for an exception for highly compensated employees.
You generally must include fringe benefits in an employee's gross income (but see Nontaxable fringe benefits next). The benefits are
subject to income tax withholding and employment taxes. Fringe benefits include cars you provide, flights on aircraft you provide, free or discounted
commercial flights, vacations, discounts on property or services, memberships in country clubs or other social clubs, and tickets to entertainment or
sporting events. In general, the amount you must include is the amount by which the fair market value of the benefits is more than the sum of what the
employee paid for it plus any amount the law excludes. There are other special rules you and your employees may use to value certain fringe benefits.
See Pub. 15-B for more information.
Nontaxable fringe benefits.
Some fringe benefits are not taxable if certain conditions are met. See Pub. 15-B for details. Examples are:
- Services provided to your employees at no additional cost to you.
- Qualified employee discounts.
- Working condition fringes that are property or services the employee could deduct as a business expense if he or she had paid for it.
Examples include a company car for business use and subscriptions to business magazines.
- Minimal value fringes (including an occasional cab ride when an employee must work overtime, local transportation benefits provided because
of unsafe conditions and unusual circumstances, and meals you provide at eating places you run for your employees if the meals are not furnished at
- Qualified transportation fringes subject to specified conditions and dollar limitations (including transportation in a commuter highway
vehicle, any transit pass, and qualified parking).
- Qualified moving expense reimbursement. See page 9 for details.
- The use of on-premises athletic facilities if substantially all the use is by employees, their spouses, and their dependent
- Qualified tuition reduction, which an educational organization provides its employees for education. For more information, see Pub.
520, Scholarships and Fellowships.
However, do not exclude the following fringe benefits from the income of highly compensated employees unless the benefit is available to employees
on a nondiscriminatory basis.
- No-additional-cost services (item 1 above).
- Qualified employee discounts (item 2 above).
- Meals provided at an employer operated eating facility (included in item 4 above).
- Reduced tuition for education (item 8 above).
For more information, including the definition of a highly compensated employee, see Pub. 15-B.
When fringe benefits are treated as paid.
You may choose to treat certain noncash fringe benefits as paid by the pay period, or by the quarter, or on any other basis you choose as long as
you treat the benefits as paid at least once a year. You do not have to make a formal choice of payment dates or notify the IRS of the dates you
choose. You do not have to make this choice for all employees. You may change methods as often as you like, as long as you treat all benefits provided
in a calendar year as paid by December 31 of the calendar year. See Pub.15-A for more information, including a discussion of the special accounting
rule for fringe benefits provided during November and December.
Valuation of fringe benefits.
Generally, you must determine the value of fringe benefits no later than January 31 of the next year. Prior to January 31, you may reasonably
estimate the value of the fringe benefits for purposes of withholding and depositing on time.
Withholding on fringe benefits.
You may add the value of fringe benefits to regular wages for a payroll period and figure withholding taxes on the total, or you may withhold
Federal income tax on the value of the fringe benefits at the flat 27% supplemental wage rate.
You may choose not to withhold income tax on the value of an employee's personal use of a vehicle you provide. You must, however, withhold social
security and Medicare taxes on the use of the vehicle. See Pub. 15-A for more information on this election.
Depositing taxes on fringe benefits.
Once you choose payment dates for fringe benefits (discussed above), you must deposit taxes in the same deposit period you treat the fringe
benefits as paid. To avoid a penalty, deposit the taxes following the general deposit rules for that deposit period.
If you determine by January 31 that you overestimated the value of a fringe benefit at the time you withheld and deposited for it, you may claim a
refund for the overpayment or have it applied to your next employment tax return (see Valuation of fringe benefits above). If you
underestimated the value and deposited too little, you may be subject to the failure to deposit penalty. See section 11 for information on deposit
If you deposited the required amount of taxes but withheld a lesser amount from the employee, you can recover from the employee the social
security, Medicare, or income taxes you deposited on his or her behalf, and included in the employee's Form W-2. However, you must recover the income
taxes before April 1 of the following year.
In general, sick pay is any amount you pay, under a plan you take part in, to an employee who is unable to work because of sickness or injury.
These amounts are sometimes paid by a third party, such as an insurance company or employees' trust. In either case, these payments are subject to
social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes. Sick pay becomes exempt from these taxes after the end of 6 calendar months after the calendar month the
employee last worked for the employer. The payments are also subject to income tax. See Pub. 15-A for more information.
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