This section explains what to do when you receive an advance or are reimbursed for any of the employee business expenses discussed in this publication.
If you received an advance, allowance, or reimbursement for your expenses, how you report this amount and your expenses depends on whether the reimbursement was paid to you under an accountable plan or a nonaccountable plan.
This section explains the two types of plans, how per diem and car allowances simplify proving the amount of your expenses, and the tax treatment of your reimbursements and expenses. It also covers rules for independent contractors.taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034111
You are not reimbursed or given an allowance for your expenses if you are paid a salary or commission with the understanding that you will pay your own expenses. In this situation, you have no reimbursement or allowance arrangement, and you do not have to read this section on reimbursements. Instead, see Completing Forms 2106 and 2106-EZ
, later, for information on completing your tax return.
A reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangement is a system or plan that an employer uses to pay, substantiate, and recover the expenses, advances, reimbursements, and amounts charged to the employer for employee business expenses. Arrangements include per diem and car allowances.
A per diem allowance is a fixed amount of daily reimbursement your employer gives you for your lodging, meals, and incidental expenses when you are away from home on business. (The term "incidental expenses"
is defined in chapter 1 under Standard Meal Allowance.)
A car allowance is an amount your employer gives you for the business use of your car.
Your employer should tell you what method of reimbursement is used and what records you must provide. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034113
If you are an employer and you reimburse employee business expenses, how you treat this reimbursement on your employee's Form W-2 depends in part on whether you have an accountable plan. Reimbursements treated as paid under an accountable plan, as explained next, are not reported as pay. Reimbursements treated as paid under nonaccountable plans, as explained later, are reported as pay. See Publication 15 (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide, for information on employee pay.taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034114
To be an accountable plan, your employer's reimbursement or allowance arrangement must include all of the following rules.
- Your expenses must have a business connection — that is, you must have paid or incurred deductible expenses while performing services as an employee of your employer.
- You must adequately account to your employer for these expenses within a reasonable period of time.
- You must return any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable period of time.
An excess reimbursement or allowance is any amount you are paid that is more than the business-related expenses that you adequately accounted for to your employer.
The definition of reasonable period of time depends on the facts and circumstances of your situation. However, regardless of the facts and circumstances of your situation, actions that take place within the times specified in the following list will be treated as taking place within a reasonable period of time.
- You receive an advance within 30 days of the time you have an expense.
- You adequately account for your expenses within 60 days after they were paid or incurred.
- You return any excess reimbursement within 120 days after the expense was paid or incurred.
- You are given a periodic statement (at least quarterly) that asks you to either return or adequately account for outstanding advances and you comply within 120 days of the statement.
If you meet the three rules for accountable plans, your employer should not include any reimbursements in your income in box 1 of your Form W-2. If your expenses equal your reimbursement, you do not complete Form 2106. You have no deduction since your expenses and reimbursement are equal.
If your employer included reimbursements in box 1 of your Form W-2 and you meet all the rules for accountable plans, ask your employer for a corrected Form W-2.
Even though you are reimbursed under an accountable plan, some of your expenses may not meet all the rules. Those expenses that fail to meet all the rules for accountable plans are treated as having been reimbursed under a nonaccountable plan (discussed later).taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034118
You may be reimbursed under your employer's accountable plan for expenses related to that employer's business, some of which are deductible as employee business expenses and some of which are not deductible. The reimbursements you receive for the nondeductible expenses do not meet rule (1) for accountable plans, and they are treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034119
Your employer's plan reimburses you for travel expenses while away from home on business and also for meals when you work late at the office, even though you are not away from home. The part of the arrangement that reimburses you for the nondeductible meals when you work late at the office is treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan.
The employer makes the decision whether to reimburse employees under an accountable plan or a nonaccountable plan. If you are an employee who receives payments under a nonaccountable plan, you cannot convert these amounts to payments under an accountable plan by voluntarily accounting to your employer for the expenses and voluntarily returning excess reimbursements to the employer.
One of the rules for an accountable plan is that you must adequately account to your employer for your expenses. You adequately account by giving your employer a statement of expense, an account book, a diary, or a similar record in which you entered each expense at or near the time you had it, along with documentary evidence (such as receipts) of your travel, mileage, and other employee business expenses. (See Table 5-1
in chapter 5 for details you need to enter in your record and documents you need to prove certain expenses.) A per diem or car allowance satisfies the adequate accounting requirement under certain conditions. See Per diem and Car Allowances
You must account for all amounts you received from your employer during the year as advances, reimbursements, or allowances. This includes amounts you charged to your employer by credit card or other method. You must give your employer the same type of records and supporting information that you would have to give to the IRS if the IRS questioned a deduction on your return. You must pay back the amount of any reimbursement or other expense allowance for which you do not adequately account or that is more than the amount for which you accounted. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034122
If your employer reimburses you for your expenses using a per diem or a car allowance, you can generally use the allowance as proof for the amount of your expenses. A per diem or car allowance satisfies the adequate accounting requirements for the amount of your expenses only if all of the following conditions apply.
- Your employer reasonably limits payments of your expenses to those that are ordinary and necessary in the conduct of the trade or business.
- The allowance is similar in form to and not more than the federal rate (defined later).
- You prove the time (dates), place, and business purpose of your expenses to your employer (as explained in Table 5-1) within a reasonable period of time.
- You are not related to your employer (as defined next). If you are related to your employer, you must be able to prove your expenses to the IRS even if you have already adequately accounted to your employer and returned any excess reimbursement.
If the IRS finds that an employer's travel allowance practices are not based on reasonably accurate estimates of travel costs (including recognition of cost differences in different areas for per diem amounts), you will not be considered to have accounted to your employer. In this case, you must be able to prove your expenses to the IRS.
You are related to your employer if:
- Your employer is your brother or sister, half brother or half sister, spouse, ancestor, or lineal descendant,
- Your employer is a corporation in which you own, directly or indirectly, more than 10% in value of the outstanding stock, or
- Certain relationships (such as grantor, fiduciary, or beneficiary) exist between you, a trust, and your employer.
You may be considered to indirectly own stock, for purposes of (2), if you have an interest in a corporation, partnership, estate, or trust that owns the stock or if a member of your family or your partner owns the stock.
The federal rate can be figured using any one of the following methods.
- For per diem amounts:
- The regular federal per diem rate.
- The standard meal allowance.
- The high-low rate.
- For car expenses:
- The standard mileage rate.
- A fixed and variable rate (FAVR).
For per diem amounts, use the rate in effect for the area where you stop for sleep or rest.
The regular federal per diem rate is the highest amount that the federal government will pay to its employees for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses (or meals and incidental expenses only) while they are traveling away from home in a particular area. The rates are different for different locations. Your employer should have these rates available. (Employers can get Publication 1542, which gives the rates in the continental United States for the current year. Publication 1542 is available on the Internet at www.irs.gov
The standard meal allowance (discussed in chapter 1) is the federal rate for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE). The rate for most small localities in the United States is $39 a day from January 1, through December 31, 2008. Most major cities and many other localities qualify for higher rates. The rates for localities within the continental United States are listed in Publication 1542. You can also find this information on the Internet at www.gsa.gov
You receive an allowance only for meals and incidental expenses when your employer does one of the following.
- Provides you with lodging (furnishes it in kind).
- Reimburses you, based on your receipts, for the actual cost of your lodging.
- Pays the hotel, motel, etc., directly for your lodging.
- Does not have a reasonable belief that you had (or will have) lodging expenses, such as when you stay with friends or relatives or sleep in the cab of your truck.
- Figures the allowance on a basis similar to that used in computing your compensation, such as number of hours worked or miles traveled.
This is a simplified method of computing the federal per diem rate for travel within the continental United States. It eliminates the need to keep a current list of the per diem rate for each city.
Under the high-low method, the per diem amount for travel during January through September of 2008 is $237 (including $58 for M&IE) for certain high-cost locations. All other areas have a per diem amount of $152 (including $45 for M&IE). (Employers can get Publication 1542 on the Internet, which gives the areas eligible for the $237 per diem amount under the high-low method for all or part of this period.)
Effective October 1, 2008, the per diem rate for certain high-cost locations increased to $256 (including $58 for M&IE). The rate for all other locations increased to $158 (including $45 for M&IE). However, an employer can continue to use the rates described in the preceding paragraph for the remainder of 2008 if those rates and locations are used consistently during October, November, and December for all employees. Employers who did not use the high-low method during the first 9 months of 2008 cannot begin to use it before 2009. For more information, see Revenue Procedure 2008-59, which can be found on the Internet at www.irs.gov/irb/2008-41_IRB/ar13.html
. Also see Publication 1542 (available on the Internet at www.irs.gov
The standard meal allowance is for a full 24-hour day of travel. If you travel for part of a day, such as on the days you depart and return, you must prorate the full-day M&IE rate. This rule also applies if your employer uses the regular federal per diem rate or the high-low rate.
You can use either of the following methods to figure the federal M&IE for that day.
- Method 1:
- For the day you depart, add 3/4 of the standard meal allowance amount for that day.
- For the day you return, add 3/4 of the standard meal allowance amount for the preceding day.
- Method 2: Prorate the standard meal allowance using any method that you consistently apply and that is in accordance with reasonable business practice. For example, an employer can treat 2 full days of per diem (that includes M&IE) paid for travel away from home from 9 a.m. of one day to 5 p.m. of the next day as being no more than the federal rate. This is true even though a federal employee would be limited to a reimbursement of M&IE for only 11/2 days of the federal M&IE rate.
This is a set rate per mile that you can use to compute your deductible car expenses. For 2008, the standard mileage rate for the cost of operating your car for business use is:
- 501/2 cents per mile for the period January 1 through June 30, 2008, and
- 581/2 cents per mile for the period July 1 through December 31, 2008.
This is an allowance your employer may use to reimburse your car expenses. Under this method, your employer pays an allowance that includes a combination of payments covering fixed and variable costs, such as a cents-per-mile rate to cover your variable operating costs (such as gas, oil, etc.) plus a flat amount to cover your fixed costs (such as depreciation (or lease payments), insurance, etc.). If your employer chooses to use this method, your employer will request the necessary records from you. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034133
If your reimbursement is in the form of an allowance received under an accountable plan, the following facts affect your reporting.
- The federal rate.
- Whether the allowance or your actual expenses were more than the federal rate.
The following discussions explain where to report your expenses depending upon how the amount of your allowance compares to the federal rate.
If your allowance is less than or equal to the federal rate, the allowance will not be included in box 1 of your Form W-2. You do not need to report the related expenses or the allowance on your return if your expenses are equal to or less than the allowance.
However, if your actual expenses are more than your allowance, you can complete Form 2106 and deduct the excess amount on Schedule A (Form 1040). If you are using actual expenses, you must be able to prove to the IRS the total amount of your expenses and reimbursements for the entire year. If you are using the standard meal allowance or the standard mileage rate, you do not have to prove that amount. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034135
In April, Jeremy takes a 2-day business trip to Denver. The federal rate for Denver is $189 per day. As required by his employer's accountable plan, he accounts for the time (dates), place, and business purpose of the trip. His employer reimburses him $189 a day ($378 total) for living expenses. Jeremy's living expenses in Denver are not more than $189 a day.
Jeremy's employer does not include any of the reimbursement on his Form W-2 and Jeremy does not deduct the expenses on his return. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034136
In June, Matt takes a 2-day business trip to Boston. Matt's employer uses the high-low method to reimburse employees. Since Boston is a high-cost area, Matt is given an advance of $237 a day ($474 total) for his lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. Matt's actual expenses totaled $700.
Since Matt's $700 of expenses are more than his $474 advance, he includes the excess expenses when he itemizes his deductions. Matt completes Form 2106 (showing all of his expenses and reimbursements). He must also allocate his reimbursement between his meals and other expenses as discussed later under Completing Forms 2106 and 2106-EZ
Nicole drives 10,000 miles in 2008 for business (4,500 miles from January 1 through June 30 and 5,500 miles from July 1 through December 31). Under her employer's accountable plan, she accounts for the time (dates), place, and business purpose of each trip. Her employer pays her a mileage allowance of 40 cents a mile.
Since Nicole's $5,491 expense computed under the standard mileage rate (4,500 miles × 501/2 cents + 5,500 miles × 581/2 cents) is more than her $4,000 reimbursement (10,000 miles × 40 cents), she itemizes her deductions to claim the excess expense. Nicole completes Form 2106 (showing all of her expenses and reimbursements) and enters $1,491 ($5,491 − $4,000) as an itemized deduction. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034138
If your allowance is more than the federal rate, your employer must include the allowance amount up to the federal rate in box 12 of your Form W-2. This amount is not taxable. However, the excess allowance will be included in box 1 of your Form W-2. You must report this part of your allowance as if it were wage income.
If your actual expenses are less than or equal to the federal rate, you do not complete Form 2106 or claim any of your expenses on your return.
However, if your actual expenses are more than the federal rate, you can complete Form 2106 and deduct those excess expenses. You must report on Form 2106 your reimbursements up to the federal rate (as shown in box 12 of your Form W-2) and all your expenses. You should be able to prove these amounts to the IRS. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034139
Laura lives and works in Austin. Her employer sent her to Albuquerque for 4 days on business. Laura's employer paid the hotel directly for her lodging and reimbursed Laura $65 a day ($260 total) for meals and incidental expenses. Laura's actual meal expenses were not more than the federal rate for Albuquerque, which is $49 per day.
Table 6-1. Reporting Travel, Entertainment, Gift,
and Car Expenses and Reimbursements
|IF the type of reimbursement (or |
other expense allowance)
arrangement is under:
|THEN the employer reports on Form W-2:||AND the employee|
Form 2106: *
|An accountable plan with:|
|Actual expense reimbursement: Adequate accounting made and excess returned. ||No amount.||No amount.|
|Actual expense reimbursement: Adequate accounting and return of excess both required but excess not returned. ||The excess amount as wages in box 1.||No amount.|
|Per diem or mileage allowance up to the federal rate: Adequate accounting made and excess returned. ||No amount.||All expenses and reimbursements only if excess expenses are claimed. Otherwise, form is not filed.|
|Per diem or mileage allowance up to the federal rate: Adequate accounting and return of excess both required but excess not returned. ||The excess amount as wages in box 1. The amount up to the federal rate is reported only in box 12—it is not reported in box 1. ||No amount.|
|Per diem or mileage allowance exceeds the federal rate: Adequate accounting up to the federal rate only and excess not returned. ||The excess amount as wages in box 1. The amount up to the federal rate is reported only in box 12—it is not reported in box 1. ||All expenses (and reimbursements reported on Form W-2, box 12) only if expenses in excess of the federal rate are claimed. Otherwise, form is not filed. |
|A nonaccountable plan with:|
|Either adequate accounting or return of excess, or both, not required by plan.||The entire amount as wages in box 1.||All expenses.|
|No reimbursement plan:||The entire amount as wages in box 1.||All expenses.|
|* You may be able to use Form 2106-EZ. See Completing Forms 2106 and 2106-EZ. |
Her employer included the $64 that was more than the federal rate (($65 − $49) × 4) in box 1 of Laura's Form W-2. Her employer shows $196 ($49 a day × 4) in box 12 of her Form W-2. This amount is not included in Laura's income. Laura does not have to complete Form 2106; however, she must include the $64 in her gross income as wages (by reporting the total amount shown in box 1 of her Form W-2). taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034141
Joe also lives in Austin and works for the same employer as Laura. In May the employer sent Joe to San Diego for 4 days and paid the hotel directly for Joe's hotel bill. The employer reimbursed Joe $75 a day for his meals and incidental expenses. The federal rate for San Diego is $64 a day.
Joe can prove that his actual meal expenses totaled $380. His employer's accountable plan will not pay more than $75 a day for travel to San Diego, so Joe does not give his employer the records that prove that he actually spent $380. However, he does account for the time, place, and business purpose of the trip. This is Joe's only business trip this year.
Joe was reimbursed $300 ($75 × 4 days), which is $44 more than the federal rate of $256 ($64 × 4 days). The employer includes the $44 as income on Joe's Form W-2 in box 1. The employer also enters $256 in box 12 of Joe's Form W-2.
Joe completes Form 2106 to figure his deductible expenses. He enters the total of his actual expenses for the year ($380) on Form 2106. He also enters the reimbursements that were not included in his income ($256). His total deductible expense, before the 50% limit, is $124. After he figures the 50% limit on his unreimbursed meals and entertainment, he will include the balance, $62, as an itemized deduction. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034142
Debbie drives 10,000 miles for business in 2008 (5,300 miles from January 1 through June 30 and 4,700 miles from July 1 through December 31). Under her employer's accountable plan, she gets reimbursed 60 cents a mile, which is more than the standard mileage rate. Her total reimbursement is $6,000.
Debbie's employer must include the reimbursement amount up to the standard mileage rate, $5,427 (5,300 miles × 501/2 cents + 4,700 miles × 581/2 cents), in box 12 of her Form W-2. That amount is not taxable. Her employer must also include $573 ($6,000 − $5,427) in box 1 of her Form W-2. This is the reimbursement that is more than the standard mileage rate.
If Debbie's expenses are equal to or less than the standard mileage rate, she would not complete Form 2106. If her expenses are more than the standard mileage rate, she would complete Form 2106 and report her total expenses and reimbursement (shown in box 12 of her Form W-2). She would then claim the excess expenses as an itemized deduction. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034143
Under an accountable plan, you are required to return any excess reimbursement or other expense allowances for your business expenses to the person paying the reimbursement or allowance. Excess reimbursement means any amount for which you did not adequately account within a reasonable period of time. For example, if you received a travel advance and you did not spend all the money on business-related expenses, or you do not have proof of all your expenses, you have an excess reimbursement. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034144
You receive a travel advance if your employer provides you with an expense allowance before you actually have the expense, and the allowance is reasonably expected to be no more than your expense. Under an accountable plan, you are required to adequately account to your employer for this advance and to return any excess within a reasonable period of time.
If you do not adequately account for or do not return any excess advance within a reasonable period of time, the amount you do not account for or return will be treated as having been paid under a nonaccountable plan (discussed later). taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034145
If you do not prove that you actually traveled on each day for which you received a per diem or car allowance (proving the elements described in Table 5-1
), you must return this unproved amount of the travel advance within a reasonable period of time. If you do not do this, the unproved amount will be considered paid under a nonaccountable plan (discussed later).
If your employer's accountable plan pays you an allowance that is higher than the federal rate, you do not have to return the difference between the two rates for the period you can prove business-related travel expenses. However, the difference will be reported as wages on your Form W-2. This excess amount is considered paid under a nonaccountable plan (discussed later). taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034147
Your employer sends you on a 5-day business trip to Phoenix in March 2008 and gives you a $400 ($80 × 5 days) advance to cover your meals and incidental expenses. The federal per diem for meals and incidental expenses for Phoenix is $59. Your trip lasts only 3 days. Under your employer's accountable plan, you must return the $160 ($80 × 2 days) advance for the 2 days you did not travel. For the 3 days you did travel you do not have to return the $63 difference between the allowance you received and the federal rate for Phoenix (($80 − $59) × 3 days). However, the $63 will be reported on your Form W-2 as wages. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034148
A nonaccountable plan is a reimbursement or expense allowance arrangement that does not meet one or more of the three rules listed earlier under Accountable Plans.
In addition, even if your employer has an accountable plan, the following payments will be treated as being paid under a nonaccountable plan:
- Excess reimbursements you fail to return to your employer, and
- Reimbursement of nondeductible expenses related to your employer's business. See Reimbursement of nondeductible expenses, earlier, under Accountable Plans.
An arrangement that repays you for business expenses by reducing the amount reported as your wages, salary, or other pay will be treated as a nonaccountable plan. This is because you are entitled to receive the full amount of your pay whether or not you have any business expenses.
If you are not sure if the reimbursement or expense allowance arrangement is an accountable or nonaccountable plan, ask your employer.taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034149
Your employer will combine the amount of any reimbursement or other expense allowance paid to you under a nonaccountable plan with your wages, salary, or other pay. Your employer will report the total in box 1 of your Form W-2.
You must complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ and itemize your deductions to deduct your expenses for travel, transportation, meals, or entertainment. Your meal and entertainment expenses will be subject to the 50% limit
discussed in chapter 2. Also, your total expenses will be subject to the 2%-of-adjusted- gross-income limit that applies to most miscellaneous itemized deductions.
Kim's employer gives her $1,000 a month ($12,000 total for the year) for her business expenses. Kim does not have to provide any proof of her expenses to her employer, and Kim can keep any funds that she does not spend.
Kim is being reimbursed under a nonaccountable plan. Her employer will include the $12,000 on Kim's Form W-2 as if it were wages. If Kim wants to deduct her business expenses, she must complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ and itemize her deductions.taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034151
Kevin is paid $2,000 a month by his employer. On days that he travels away from home on business, his employer designates $50 a day of his salary as paid to reimburse his travel expenses. Because his employer would pay Kevin his monthly salary whether or not he was traveling away from home, the arrangement is a nonaccountable plan. No part of the $50 a day designated by his employer is treated as paid under an accountable plan.taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034152
This section provides rules for independent contractors who incur expenses on behalf of a client or customer. The rules cover the reporting and substantiation of certain expenses discussed in this publication, and they affect both independent contractors and their clients or customers.
You are considered an independent contractor if you are self-employed and you perform services for a customer or client. taxmap/pubs/p463-014.htm#en_us_publink100034153
If you received a reimbursement or an allowance for travel, entertainment, or gift expenses that you incurred on behalf of a client, you should provide an adequate accounting of these expenses to your client. If you do not account to your client for these expenses, you must include any reimbursements or allowances in income. You must keep adequate records of these expenses whether or not you account to your client for these expenses.
If you do not separately account for and seek reimbursement for meals and entertainment in connection with providing services for a client, you are subject to the 50% limit on those expenses. See 50% Limit
in chapter 2.
As a self-employed person, you adequately account by reporting your actual expenses. You should follow the recordkeeping rules in chapter 5
For information on how to report expenses on your tax return, see Self-employed
at the beginning of this chapter.
If you are a client or customer, you generally do not have to keep records to prove the reimbursements or allowances you give, in the course of your business, to an independent contractor for travel or gift expenses incurred on your behalf. However, you must keep records if:
- You reimburse the contractor for entertainment expenses incurred on your behalf, and
- The contractor adequately accounts to you for these expenses.
If the contractor adequately accounts to you for entertainment expenses, you (the client or customer) must keep records documenting each element of the expense, as explained in chapter 5
. Use your records as proof for a deduction on your tax return. If entertainment expenses are accounted for separately, you are subject to the 50% limit on entertainment. If the contractor adequately accounts to you for reimbursed amounts, you do not have to report the amounts on an information return.
If the contractor does not adequately account to you for allowances or reimbursements of entertainment expenses, you do not have to keep records of these items. You are not subject to the 50% limit on entertainment in this case. You can deduct the reimbursements or allowances as payment for services if they are ordinary and necessary business expenses. However, you must file Form 1099-MISC to report amounts paid to the independent contractor if the total of the reimbursements and any other fees is $600 or more during the calendar year.