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Outdated IRS rules could lead employers to stop providing cellphones

July 28, 2008 |  8:34 am

DynatacThe Motorola DynaTAC 8000X holds its place in wireless history as the world's first commercial cellphone. The hefty device (both in weight -- like a brick -- and price -- nearly $4,000 when introduced in 1984) also represents state-of-the-art as far as federal tax law is concerned.

That's bad news if your employer provides you with a cellphone.

As you can read in our story today, many employers may stop paying for employee cellphones because the Internal Revenue Service recently has been cracking down on tax rules set in 1989. Those rules consider cellphones a pricey fringe benefit, reserved for the likes of high-powered businessmen such as Gordon Gekko.

The IRS says employees must keep detailed logs of their calls, indicating which are for business and which are personal. If they don't, the phone and its monthly service plan are considered taxable income.

UCLA was hit this year with a bill for $239,196 in unpaid taxes for employee cellphones and is considering changing its policy.

Those changes are on hold as Congress considers bringing IRS cellphone rules into the 21st Century. Legislation to do so passed the House this year, and a similar bill is pending in the Senate

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Puzzanghera, a Times staff writer, covers tech and media policy from Washington, D.C.

Photo: Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, circa 1984. Credit: