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IRS Releases 2017 Version of Publication 15-B (Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits)



IRS Publication 15-B (Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits (For Use in 2017))

Available at–2017.pdf

The IRS has released the 2017 version of Publication 15-B (Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits), which provides information for employers on the employment tax treatment of various fringe benefits, including accident and health coverage, adoption assistance, dependent care assistance, educational assistance, employee discount programs, employer-provided vehicles and cell phones, group-term life insurance, moving expense reimbursements, health savings accounts (HSAs), and transportation benefits. (Publication 15-B uses the term “employment taxes” to refer to federal income tax withholding as well as Social Security and Medicare (FICA) and federal unemployment (FUTA) taxes.) It also discusses withholding, depositing, and reporting rules for taxable noncash fringe benefits.

The 2017 version of Publication 15-B is substantially similar to the 2016 version, but it has some noteworthy clarifications and additions. These include new examples of benefits that cannot be excluded as de minimis fringe benefits, more details about the limits on employee discounts, and an entirely new discussion about when product testing benefits are excludable as a working condition fringe benefit. The 2017 version also elaborates on the exclusion for lodging on the employer’s business premises, and offers more details about the exclusions for meals provided at an employer-operated eating facility and meals provided for the employer’s convenience. The 2017 version also provides the 2017 dollar amounts for various benefit limits and definitions, such as the monthly limits under qualified transportation plans (see our Checkpoint article); the maximum out-of-pocket expenses for high-deductible health plans and the maximum contributions permitted to HSAs (see our Checkpoint article); the limit on health flexible spending arrangement (health FSA) salary reductions (see our Checkpoint article); and the 2017 standard mileage rate for valuing an employee’s personal use of an employer-provided vehicle (see our Checkpoint article).

EBIA Comment: Publication 15-B, which is a supplement to IRS Publication 15 (also known as Circular E), is a useful reference for employers on the tax treatment of fringe benefits. But employers should keep in mind that—even with the 2017 enhancements—Publication 15-B does not provide complete coverage of the many rules that apply to the fringe benefits it summarizes. For more information on various fringe benefits, including qualified transportation, adoption assistance, educational assistance, leave-based donation programs, employee discount programs, employer-provided cell phones, company cars, group-term life insurance, employer-provided meals, and moving expense reimbursement benefits, see EBIA’s Fringe Benefits manual; for more information on HSAs, see EBIA’s Consumer-Driven Health Care manual; and for more information on cafeteria plans, health FSAs, and dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs), see EBIA’s Cafeteria Plans manual.

Contributing Editors: EBIA Staff.

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