Employee Tool & Equipment Plans
This resource page provides information and guidance related to Employee Tool and Equipment Plans, sometimes called Service Technician’s Tool Reimbursement Plans (Tool Plans). Tool Plans are programs that are marketed in various industries including auto dealership and repair facilities and other trades that require employees to provide their own tools. The plans typically purport to receive tax-favored treatment as “accountable plans” under Internal Revenue Code § 62(c) and the accompanying regulations.
Available Guidance and other Information
Revenue Rule 2012-25
Revenue Rule 2012-25 clarifies that an arrangement that recharacterizes taxable wages as nontaxable reimbursements or allowances does not satisfy the business connection requirement of the accountable plan rules under § 62(c) and the applicable regulations. The ruling includes three examples of programs that do not satisfy the business connection requirement of the accountable plan rules because they impermissibly recharacterize wages. It also includes an example in which the reimbursement arrangement satisfies the business connection requirement of the accountable plan rules because the employer’s plan only reimburses employees when a deductible business expense has been incurred in connection with performing services for the employer and the reimbursement is not in lieu of wages that the employees would otherwise receive.
A reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangement that pays an amount regardless of whether an expense is paid or incurred or reasonably expected to be paid or incurred by the employee in performing services for the employer violates the business connection requirement of an accountable plan. Specifically, such an arrangement violates the business connection’s reimbursement requirement under Treas. Reg. § 1.62-2(d)(3)(i). Accordingly, payments made under the arrangement are treated as made under a nonaccountable plan. Amounts treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan must be included in the employee’s gross income for the taxable year, are subject to withholding and payment of employment taxes, and must be reported as wages or other compensation on the employee’s Form W-2.
Employee Tool & Equipment Plans Alert
The Internal Revenue Service has established a compliance team to address significant concerns with certain Employee Tool and Equipment Plans that purport to receive tax-favored treatment as accountable plans.
IRS Letter Ruling 200930029
An employer's expense reimbursement plan satisfies the business connection, substantiation, and return of excess requirements of an accountable plan. Payments made under the Plan in accordance with the terms of the plan will be excluded from the Technician’s income and will not be wages subject to the withholding and payment of employment taxes.
Chief Counsel Advice - ILM 200745018
A legal memorandum that concludes that an employer's tool reimbursement plan does not satisfy the requirements of an accountable plan.
Revenue Ruling 2005-52
This ruling holds that tool allowances paid to employees are not paid under an accountable plan because the substantiation and return of excess requirements are not met.