IRS Mulls Taxing Work Perks

by William Teach | April 16, 2014 7:47 am

Perhaps they should start with all the perks elected officials and federal employees are given, starting with any perks IRS workers receive

(Fox News[1]) In competitive job markets like Silicon Valley, companies are doing everything they can to entice the best and brightest — offering freebies that have become the stuff of legend.

Employee perks like free food at lavish cafeterias, laundry and even yoga are not unheard of.

But the taxman could soon crack down.

The IRS reportedly is looking at these perks and seeing if these companies need to start paying up for the free stuff they offer employees.

As the article notes, it comes down to whether any perks are a form of compensation or whether they are a way to get more productivity out of the employee. If it’s the former, then they would be taxable. And, the taxes would mostly be assessed to the employee, not the employer.

The Wall Street Journal[2] (behind a paywall) first reported that the agency is considering whether the freebies like food, shuttles, haircuts and more are really fringe benefits on which workers should be taxed. Some tax experts see the perks as skirting the edges of the law, and warn the companies may be violating it — but also think it would be a very aggressive move for the already-busy IRS to pursue this when they have much more on their plate.

I think we all know that when a federal agency announces that they are considering rules they will most likely implement the rules, especially in the Era Of Obama.

CEO and co-founder (of Clari) Andy Byrne argues that providing good, healthy food is a necessity, not a luxury, and that everyone benefits.

“They win [because] they’re happier, our customers win [because] they get a higher quality product and then our shareholders win because they see our momentum in the market. For a small company like Clari, the idea of taxing the perks would have a devastating effect, not only for the employers who would have to cancel the perk, but also for the workers who would have lower productivity,” he said.

The IRS has already implemented many rules that make perks too much of a pain during the late 2000’s. Giveways from vendors was one of the recipients of the rules, along with from the companies. When I was working in wireless we used to get lots of stuff. There were contests for free wireless phones. When the Motorola RAZR was released virtually every employee “won” one. Bluetooth headsets. All sorts of things. And t-shirts and stuff. Alas, the rules changed that. Any phone you won was really owned by the company, which was letting you use it, and had to be turned back in. Heck, I have a box of phones I won or was given. I find them in drawers all over. Vendors couldn’t give us stuff like before. Even t-shirts. They’d send us these boxes of bluetooth headsets, were considered to be owned by the company I worked for, and you were supposed to return them. Really.

(MoneyNews[3]) “I clearly think it ought to be taxable income,” Martin McMahon, a tax-law professor at the University of Florida, told The Journal. In most cases, the free morsels amount to an element of workers’ compensation, he said.

Even if it is, who cares? There is no reason for Los Federales to tax every damned thing in our life. The IRS is already taxing all sorts of “gifts” from companies, now they want even more of the pie.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove[4]. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach[5].

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  3. MoneyNews:
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