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Fringe Benefits Year-End Roundup: Reporting and Compliance Must-Knows

November 22, 2023

Written by Complete Payroll

Fringe Benefits Year-End Roundup Reporting and Compliance Must-Knows Banner

With the year coming to a close, HR departments and payroll specialists are hustling to make sure they've got every aspect of employee compensation covered.

In the spirit of thoroughness and legal compliance, it’s critical to consider not only direct cash payments but also the gamut of fringe benefits provided to employees throughout the year.

Fringe Benefits Can Be Taxable

Understanding the tax implications of fringe benefits is vital for accurate reporting and compliance. Here's a more detailed look at common fringe benefits that can impact your end-of-year reporting:

  • Bonuses: Typically considered a part of taxable income, these need to be reported on an employee’s W-2 form.
  • Paid moving expenses: While some moving expenses are deductible, any amount given to an employee that exceeds the actual cost of moving is taxable.
  • Business frequent flyer miles: If an employee converts business-earned miles to cash, the cash equivalent must be reported as income.
  • Group term life insurance: The cost of coverage over $50,000 is subject to tax and must be included in employee earnings.
  • Mileage reimbursements: Amounts that surpass the IRS's standard business mileage rate are taxable. In 2023, this standard rate was 65.5 cents per mile. Reimbursements above this rate become a part of taxable income.
  • Education reimbursements: Only job-related education expenses are non-taxable. Any other educational expenses covered by the employer are considered taxable benefits.

Analyzing the taxability of fringe benefits is crucial, as misclassification may lead to tax penalties. Employers must scrutinize the nature of the courses taken by employees and reimburse accordingly.

Some Fringe Benefits Required by Law

While some benefits are indeed discretionary, others are mandatory and must be offered by employers. These typically include:

  • Health insurance: Employers of a specific size must provide this to full-time employees.
  • Workers' compensation: This coverage is a statutory requirement in every state, providing benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses.
  • Unemployment insurance: Employers are obliged to contribute to this state-managed insurance system, which provides temporary income to employees who have lost their jobs.
  • Family and medical leave: This federal requirement ensures that eligible employees are provided with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.

It's essential for businesses to understand these legal obligations and to integrate them into their fringe benefits program, ensuring compliance with all applicable laws.

Examples of Fringe Benefits That Aren't Taxed

Conversely, not all fringe benefits come with a tax stipulation. Here are some tax-free benefits:

  • Health insurance contributions: These are non-taxable up to a ceiling, which provides a significant tax shield for employee compensation packages.
  • Adoption assistance: Employers can offer tax-free assistance for adoption-related expenses to their employees.
  • Dependent care assistance: Qualifying expenses related to child care or care for dependents can be provided tax-free up to certain limits.
  • Employee discounts: Discounts on services or goods from the employer are tax-free within certain limits.
  • Retirement planning services: Assisting employees with retirement planning is a valuable, tax-free service.
  • Profit-sharing and stock bonus programs: These qualified plans are designed to defer taxes on contributions until the benefits are paid out to employees.

How to Report Fringe Benefits

For reporting purposes, all taxable fringe benefits must be included in an employee's taxable income. The correct reporting forms include:

  • W-2 Forms: Employees receive this standard form, which summarizes their yearly wages and the amount of taxes withheld from their paycheck, including fringe benefits.
  • Form 1099-NEC: Independent contractors who receive fringe benefits must be reported on this form.
  • Schedule K-1 (Form 1065): Partners in a partnership receiving benefits will have their share reported in this document.

Employers have the option to uniformly withhold a flat rate of 22% on the value of taxable fringe benefits to simplify accounting and spread tax liabilities over the course of the year.

The Takeaway

Fringe benefits are essential for attracting and retaining talent, and employers must distinguish between taxable and non-taxable benefits to avoid tax-related issues. Proactive education about tax implications helps ensure compliance and a trustworthy work environment.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting, or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.

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