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Broadcasting Services/Telecommunications/Electronic Mail Communications

Wireless Phone Policy - 6B2

  1. Introduction

    1. Tax law states that the personal use of university-provided wireless phones is a taxable fringe benefit. IRS rules mandate that the employee keep a log documenting each incoming and outgoing business call, including the business purpose of the call, and that the university include the value of personal calls in the employee's taxable income (W-2). If the log is not kept, the IRS can declare that the entire cost of the wireless phone plan is taxable income to the employee, even if most of the calls were business-related. These IRS documentation requirements are impractical.
    2. Therefore, the university will generally no longer provide wireless phone service for the use of individual employees. Instead, eligible employees may receive additional compensation, in the form of a wireless phone allowance, to cover the cost of business-related calls on their personal wireless phone.
    3. Employees who are not eligible for a wireless phone allowance may be reimbursed for business calls on their personal wireless phones.
  2. Wireless Phone Allowance

    1. Eligibility for Wireless Phone Allowance

      1. The university may provide a wireless phone allowance to an employee if at least one of the following criteria is met:

        1. The job requires considerable time outside the office and it is important to the university that the employee be immediately accessible to receive and/or make frequent business calls during those times.
        2. The job requires the employee to be immediately accessible to receive and/or make frequent business calls outside of working hours.
        3. Job duties away from the office may expose the employee or others to immediate harm or danger (e.g., visits to homes of patients or clients).
      2. Simple convenience is not sufficient. Eligibility is based on necessity, frequency and safety, not title or position. (For example, one computer administrator may perform his/her work entirely in a campus office and is never on call, while another employee with the same title may work primarily in the field and/or may be on call after hours.)
      3. The allowance will be charged to an account specified by the employee's fiscal officer, who must ensure availability of funding. Thus, departmental eligibility criteria can be more (but not less) restrictive than the university criteria stated above.
      4. The wireless phone allowance must be approved by the fiscal officer, dean/director, and Vice Chancellor.
    2. Wireless Phone Allowance Amount

      1. The wireless phone allowance is $25 per month. This is taxable income to the employee. (Note-the amount was established considering the additional taxes that the employee will have to pay on the allowance.) The allowance is intended to reimburse the employee for the business use of the phone, not to pay the entire phone bill, under the assumption that most employees also use their wireless phone for personal calls.
      2. Generally, the assumption is that only voice communications are required. If the job duties require significant text messaging, then the default wireless phone allowance is $30 per month. If the job duties also require significant data usage (email, internet), then the default allowance is $45 per month.
      3. The amount of the allowance may be increased if justified by greater voice or data usage needs and if approved by the Vice Chancellor. Documentation for the amount (such as previous phone bills) and for the necessity (as opposed to convenience) of the greater usage should be submitted in order to demonstrate the need for a higher allowance.
      4. The allowance is not an entitlement-the amount can be changed or withdrawn without notice at any time.
      5. The wireless phone allowance is not part of base pay used for SURS purposes or for calculating percentage salary increases.
      6. The university will generally not pay for the phone instrument itself because basic phones, capable of handling university business, are usually available free upon entering into a wireless plan. The employee can choose a phone with more features and pay the difference if he/she chooses. The phone will belong to the employee, not to the university. The university will not pay for Activation Fees.
    3. Employee and University Responsibilities

      1. The employee must sign the Wireless Phone Allowance Request Form, thereby certifying that he/she will provide the phone number within five days of activation and will be available for calls (in possession of the phone and have it turned on) during those times specified by management.
      2. The employee may select any wireless carrier whose service meets the requirements of the job responsibilities as determined by the fiscal officer. (For example, computer technicians may sometimes work in the basements of campus buildings where the wireless phones of only certain carriers get a signal.) A fiscal officer may also restrict the allowance of his/her employees to the same carrier in order to reduce cell-to-cell costs. In most cases, however, the employee may select the wireless carrier and plan features of his/her choice (e.g., number of anytime minutes, local vs. nationwide, individual vs. family plan, etc.)
      3. The employee must inform the university to discontinue the allowance when the eligibility criteria are no longer met or when the wireless service is cancelled.
      4. Management may periodically request that the employee provide a copy of the first page of the phone bill in order to verify that he/she has an active wireless phone plan. Management may also periodically request documentation of substantial business use.
      5. The employee is responsible for all charges on his/her personal wireless plan, including Early Termination Fees. If the employee leaves the position, he/she continues to be responsible for the contractual obligations of his/her wireless plan.
      6. The employee does not need to follow IRS rules for documentation of business and personal phone calls.
      7. It is the employee's responsibility to comply with state and municipal laws regarding the use of wireless phones while driving.
      8. Wireless transmissions are not secure and employees should use discretion in relaying confidential information over wireless devices.
      9. The Payroll Department will keep approved Wireless Phone Allowance Request Form on file and available for internal or external audit.
  3. Employees Not Eligible for a Wireless Phone Allowance

    1. Employees not eligible for a wireless phone allowance may be reimbursed for necessary business calls made with their personal wireless phone with appropriate documentation. Reimbursement will be available only to the extent that the plan's anytime minutes are exceeded. Reimbursement will be computed using average cost per minute:

      1. Divide the total monthly bill less long distance and roaming charges by the total number of minutes used that month to derive a per-minute charge.
      2. Multiply the per-minute charge by the number of necessary business minutes that month to the extent that they exceed the plan's anytime minutes.
      3. If applicable, add specific long distance and roaming charges attributable to the business calls.
      4. Attach to an AP Invoice Distribution Form the calculations and a copy of the wireless phone bill highlighting the business calls. Indicate the business purpose of those calls. Send to Accounts Payable.
      5. Under IRS rules, the reimbursement request must be received within sixty days of receipt of the bill or the reimbursement will be considered taxable income and added to the employee's W-2.
    2. Most wireless carriers offer a discount to state employees. This discount is available to all employees, including those who are not eligible for a wireless phone allowance. Contact carriers for more information.
  4. University-Provided Phones

    1. With the approval of a Vice Chancellor, the university may pay for wireless phone service in certain limited circumstances-e.g., phones that rotate among catering truck drivers or maintenance supervisors. No personal calls are allowed on university-provided phones. They should generally not be assigned to a specific individual or taken home on a regular basis.
    2. Fiscal officers must submit a University-Provided Wireless Phone Plan Request Form and have it approved by the dean/director and Vice Chancellor.
    3. The Telecommunications Department will keep approved University-Provided Wireless Phone Plan Request Form on file and available for internal or external audit.
    4. Fiscal officers should review the monthly bills of university-provided phones to ensure that no personal calls were made. Inadvertent or emergency personal calls must be reimbursed to the university at the rate of $.30 per minute plus long distance and roaming charges.
  5. Special Rules for Grant Accounts

    1. Only "direct costs" can be charged to grants and contracts. Therefore, the wireless phone allowance cannot be charged to grant accounts. Potential alternatives include:

      1. Charge a wireless phone allowance to a non-grant account,
      2. Charge to the grant account calls directly related to the grant or project made with the employee's personal wireless phone (see Section III), or
      3. Charge a university-provided wireless phone plan (see Section IV) to the grant account provided that only calls directly related to that specific grant (and no personal calls) are allowed.
    2. Charges related to alternatives 2. and 3. above must be approved by the Office of Research and Projects.
    3. Equipment (e.g., phone) charges cannot be charged to grant accounts.
  6. Implementation

    1. The effective date of this policy is July 31, 2007. By that date, all existing university-provided wireless phone holders must either:

      1. Cancel the university-provided wireless phone plan, or
      2. Switch to a personal plan, cancel the university-provided wireless phone plan, and obtain Vice Chancellor approval on a Wireless Phone Allowance Request Form, or
      3. Obtain Vice Chancellor approval on a University-Provided Wireless Phone Plan Request Form for phones that meet the conditions described in IV.A. above.
    2. Early Termination Fees, if any, for university-provided phones are the responsibility of the department. (Verizon has informed the university that "as a State Agency under the State of Illinois Contract there is no Early Termination Fee for corporate lines.")
    3. Employees who are eligible for a wireless phone allowance and who already have a separate personal wireless phone plan need not obtain a second personal plan. They may be able to simply begin using their existing personal plan for business calls. They should ensure that their anytime minutes are sufficient for both business and personal use.
    4. Employees who are eligible for a wireless phone allowance and who do not have a separate personal wireless phone plan should establish one. If they currently have a university-provided wireless phone they may choose to contact the carrier to determine if they can convert the university-paid plan to a personal plan, or, alternatively, if they can port over their current phone number to a new personal plan with a different carrier.
    5. When employees no longer need university-owned wireless phones, they should erase personal and university information stored in memory and then send a Surplus Property Pickup Form to Surplus Property. Please call Surplus Property at ext. 3378 with questions.
  7. Miscellaneous

    1. Extraordinary business use of an employee's personal wireless phone in excess of the monthly allowance can be reimbursed with appropriate documentation.
    2. Employees cannot circumvent this policy by obtaining a Foundation-provided wireless phone plan or allowance.
    3. Vice Chancellors can approve exceptions to this policy.

Approved by Chancellor effective 4/27/07
This policy was issued on May 21, 2007
Document Reference: 6B2
Origin: OC 4/27/07

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