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Publication 15-B

Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe 


What's New(p1)

Future developments.(p1)
The IRS has created a page on for information about Publication 15-B, at Information about any future developments affecting Publication 15-B (such as legislation enacted after we release it) will be posted on that page.
Employer-provided cell phones.(p1)
The value of an employer-provided cell phone, provided primarily for noncompensatory business reasons, is excludable from an employee's income as a working condition fringe benefit. Personal use of an employer-provided cell phone, provided primarily for noncompensatory business reasons, is excludable from an employee's income as a de minimis fringe benefit. For details, see Employer-Provided Cell Phones, De Minimis (Minimal) Benefits, and Working Condition Benefits, in section 2.
Cents-per-mile rule.(p2)
The business mileage rate for 2012 is 55.5 cents per mile. You may use this rate to reimburse an employee for business use of a personal vehicle, and under certain conditions, you may use the rate under the cents-per-mile rule to value the personal use of a vehicle you provide to an employee. See Cents-Per-Mile Rule in section 3.
Qualified parking exclusion and commuter transportation benefit.(p2)
For 2012, the monthly exclusion for qualified parking is $240 and the monthly exclusion for commuter highway vehicle transportation and transit passes is $125. See Qualified Transportation Benefits in section 2.


Expiration of benefits for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders.(p2)
The gross income exclusion for benefits provided to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders expired on December 31, 2010.
Simple cafeteria plans.(p2)
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended code section 125 to allow eligible employers' cafeteria plans to qualify as simple cafeteria plans. Simple cafeteria plans as described in section 1 will be treated as meeting certain nondiscrimination requirements.
Photographs of missing children.(p2)
The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.


This publication supplements Publication 15 (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide, and Publication 15-A, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide. It contains information for employers on the employment tax treatment of fringe benefits.

Comments and suggestions.(p2)

We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can write to us at the following address:

Internal Revenue Service
Business Forms and Publications Branch
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526
Washington, DC 20224

We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
You can email us at Please put "Publication 15-B" on the subject line. Although we cannot respond individually to each email, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.

1. Fringe Benefit Overview(p2)

A fringe benefit is a form of pay for the performance of services. For example, you provide an employee with a fringe benefit when you allow the employee to use a business vehicle to commute to and from work.

Performance of services.(p2)

A person who performs services for you does not have to be your employee. A person may perform services for you as an independent contractor, partner, or director. Also, for fringe benefit purposes, treat a person who agrees not to perform services (such as under a covenant not to compete) as performing services.

Provider of benefit.(p2)

You are the provider of a fringe benefit if it is provided for services performed for you. You are the provider of a fringe benefit even if your client or customer provides the benefit to your employee for services the employee performs for you. For example, you are the provider of a fringe benefit for day care even if the day care is provided by a third party.

Recipient of benefit.(p2)

The person who performs services for you is the recipient of a fringe benefit provided for those services. That person may be the recipient even if the benefit is provided to someone who did not perform services for you. For example, your employee may be the recipient of a fringe benefit you provide to a member of the employee's family.

Are Fringe Benefits Taxable?(p2)

Any fringe benefit you provide is taxable and must be included in the recipient's pay unless the law specifically excludes it. Section 2 discusses the exclusions that apply to certain fringe benefits. Any benefit not excluded under the rules discussed in section 2 is taxable.

Including taxable benefits in pay.(p3)

You must include in a recipient's pay the amount by which the value of a fringe benefit is more than the sum of the following amounts. The rules used to determine the value of a fringe benefit are discussed in section 3.
If the recipient of a taxable fringe benefit is your employee, the benefit is subject to employment taxes and must be reported on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. However, you can use special rules to withhold, deposit, and report the employment taxes. These rules are discussed in section 4.
If the recipient of a taxable fringe benefit is not your employee, the benefit is not subject to employment taxes. However, you may have to report the benefit on one of the following information returns.
If the recipient
receives the benefit as:
An independent contractorForm 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income
A partnerSchedule K-1 (Form 1065), Partner's Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.
For more information, see the instructions for the forms listed above.

Cafeteria Plans(p3)

A cafeteria plan, including a flexible spending arrangement, is a written plan that allows your employees to choose between receiving cash or taxable benefits instead of certain qualified benefits for which the law provides an exclusion from wages. If an employee chooses to receive a qualified benefit under the plan, the fact that the employee could have received cash or a taxable benefit instead will not make the qualified benefit taxable.
Generally, a cafeteria plan does not include any plan that offers a benefit that defers pay. However, a cafeteria plan can include a qualified 401(k) plan as a benefit. Also, certain life insurance plans maintained by educational institutions can be offered as a benefit even though they defer pay.

Qualified benefits.(p3)

A cafeteria plan can include the following benefits discussed in section 2.

Benefits not allowed.(p3)

A cafeteria plan cannot include the following benefits discussed in section 2.
It also cannot include scholarships or fellowships (discussed in Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education).


For these plans, treat the following individuals as employees.
Exception for S corporation shareholders.(p3)
Do not treat a 2% shareholder of an S corporation as an employee of the corporation for this purpose. A 2% shareholder for this purpose is someone who directly or indirectly owns (at any time during the year) more than 2% of the corporation's stock or stock with more than 2% of the voting power. Treat a 2% shareholder as you would a partner in a partnership for fringe benefit purposes, but do not treat the benefit as a reduction in distributions to the 2% shareholder.

Plans that favor highly compensated employees.(p4)

If your plan favors highly compensated employees as to eligibility to participate, contributions, or benefits, you must include in their wages the value of taxable benefits they could have selected. A plan you maintain under a collective bargaining agreement does not favor highly compensated employees.
A highly compensated employee for this purpose is any of the following employees.
  1. An officer.
  2. A shareholder who owns more than 5% of the voting power or value of all classes of the employer's stock.
  3. An employee who is highly compensated based on the facts and circumstances.
  4. A spouse or dependent of a person described in (1), (2), or (3).

Plans that favor key employees.(p4)

If your plan favors key employees, you must include in their wages the value of taxable benefits they could have selected. A plan favors key employees if more than 25% of the total of the nontaxable benefits you provide for all employees under the plan go to key employees. However, a plan you maintain under a collective bargaining agreement does not favor key employees.
A key employee during 2012 is generally an employee who is either of the following.
  1. An officer having annual pay of more than $165,000.
  2. An employee who for 2012 is either of the following.
    1. A 5% owner of your business.
    2. A 1% owner of your business whose annual pay was more than $150,000.

Simple Cafeteria Plans(p4)

After December 31, 2010, eligible employers meeting contribution requirements and eligibility and participation requirements can establish a simple cafeteria plan. Simple cafeteria plans are treated as meeting the nondiscrimination requirements of a cafeteria plan and certain benefits under a cafeteria plan.

Eligible employer.(p4)

You are an eligible employer if you employ an average of 100 or fewer employees during either of the 2 preceding years. If your business was not in existence throughout the preceding year, you are eligible if you reasonably expect to employ an average of 100 or fewer employees in the current year. If you establish a simple cafeteria plan in a year that you employ an average of 100 or fewer employees, you are considered an eligible employer for any subsequent year as long as you do not employ an average of 200 or more employees in a subsequent year.

Eligibility and participation requirements.(p4)

These requirements are met if all employees who had at least 1,000 hours of service for the preceding plan year are eligible to participate and each employee eligible to participate in the plan may elect any benefit available under the plan. You may elect to exclude from the plan employees who:
  1. Are under age 21 before the close of the plan year,
  2. Have less than 1 year of service with you as of any day during the plan year,
  3. Are covered under a collective bargaining agreement, or
  4. Are nonresident aliens working outside the United States whose income did not come from a U.S. source.

Contribution requirements.(p4)

You must make a contribution to provide qualified benefits on behalf of each qualified employee in an amount equal to:
  1. A uniform percentage (not less than 2%) of the employee’s compensation for the plan year, or
  2. An amount which is at least 6% of the employee’s compensation for the plan year or twice the amount of the salary reduction contributions of each qualified employee, whichever is less.
If the contribution requirements are met using option (2) above, the rate of contribution to any salary reduction contribution of a highly compensated or key employee can not be greater than the rate of contribution to any other employee.

More information.(p4)

For more information about cafeteria plans, see section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code and its regulations.