Feb. 1, 2008
Sep. 23, 2008
9.1.5. COMMUNICATION DEVICE ALLOWANCE
The University of Texas at Austin recognizes that the performance of certain job responsibilities may be enhanced by the provision of communication devices and services. For purposes of this policy, a communication device is defined as a cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA) that allows for two-way communication. A communication service is defined as the plan providing for operation of a communication device and/or an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This policy establishes methods for making a communication device and its operation available to employees and/or reimbursing for ISP costs if the job requires that they be able to connect to the campus network to perform duties from an alternate work location.
A department may elect to acquire and provide a communication device to an employee whose job duties, in the opinion of the department head, necessitate the provision of such a device. A communication device acquired by a department and provided to an employee is considered to be university property and will be used by the employee for university business purposes only. Absolutely no personal use is allowed.
A department may elect to monetarily contribute to the employee's purchase and operation of a communication device and/or ISP when such employee’s job duties, in the opinion of the department head, necessitate the provision of such a device and/or service. In order to ensure the university fully complies with Federal tax regulations, direct reimbursements to individuals for these expenses outside the allowance process are not allowed. In such case, the monetary contribution will be provided in one or both of the following forms:
- Communication Device Allowance—provides a periodic monetary contribution toward the employee’s personal acquisition of a communication device and payment of initial activation fees. A communication device allowance may be paid only once every two years.
- Monthly Communication Service Allowance—provides a monthly salary supplement for the operation of a communication device and/or ISP. The supplement is provided to the employee for as long as the employee’s department head determines that he or she qualifies under this policy.
A communication device acquired by this method is considered to be the personal property of the employee and accordingly may be used in any way the employee deems appropriate. Any service contract the employee enters into regarding the acquisition or operation of a communication device or ISP acquired by this method is personal to the employee. The university will have no obligation or make any guarantees with respect to such service contracts.
The department head is responsible for the following:
- Determining whether the employee’s position requires a communication device/service based on his or her job duties and responsibilities;
- Determining which of the allowed acquisition methods is most appropriate to an employee requiring a communication device/service (see section B of this policy for information about acquisition methods); and
- Determining the source of funds to be used to pay for a communication device/service.
If the communication device is to be owned by the university (see section B.1. of this policy), the department head is additionally responsible for the following:
- Ensuring that the substantiation requirements outlined in section E are satisfied; and
- Removing access to a university-owned device as contemplated by this policy if documentation of phone activity shows personal use.
If the communication device is to be owned by the employee (see section B.2 of this policy), the department head is additionally responsible for the following:
- Determining the appropriate monthly communication service allowance for the employee within the monthly allowance amounts approved and published by the university (see section F of this policy for information about allowance rates); and
- Completing the necessary forms to document the approval. A copy of the completed and approved Communication Device Allowance Request must be retained in the employee's departmental personnel file.
After the Communication Device Allowance Request is completed and approved, the department must use the Communications Device page in UT Direct to enroll the employee and establish the one-time and monthly allowances as specified on the approved request.
Employees are responsible for the following:
- Ensuring that the device is used for university business only. No personal use of the phone is allowed. The university recognizes that incidental use not initiated by the employee is possible but under any circumstances, it should be both infrequent and nonroutine. The university also recognizes that there may be emergency or extenuating circumstances under which the phone is needed for personal use. Those occasions also must be rare and nonroutine in nature. If personal use occurs under one of these circumstances, the employee must reimburse the university for the value of the personal use. If the call(s) does not have an itemized cost because it falls within allowable minutes for the month, a prorated cost must be assigned.
- Ensuring that adequate substantiation of all phone calls is provided as defined in section E of this policy.
- Ensuring the physical protection of the device from damage and unauthorized use; and
- Ensuring that the device is returned to the university when it is no longer needed or the employee terminates employment with the department.
Employees are responsible for the following:
- Paying all amounts due as agreed between the employee and communication device or Internet service provider;
- Providing the university department with the current access number or address of the communication device within five working days of activation; and
- Notifying the department head within five working days of inactivation of the device or ISP. An employee is prohibited from continuing to collect a monthly communication service allowance when the device or ISP is no longer active or needed for the performance of the employee’s job responsibilities.
Communications devices owned by the university are considered "listed property" by the IRS and are subject to strict documentation requirements. All phone calls made on a university-owned phone must be documented monthly on an itemized bill to include the business purpose of the call plus name and business relationship of the other party. This should be accompanied by an overall signed statement attesting to the legitimate business purpose of ALL device/plan use. If an itemized statement is not provided by the carrier, a separate phone log must be maintained. Please note that phone calls to one's home or family are not business related for this purpose. If unable or unwilling to provide this level of documentation, the individual should not be given access to a university-owned device as contemplated by this policy.
Allowances paid to the employee are considered taxable compensation and accordingly are subject to required tax withholdings. Payment of such taxes incurred is the responsibility of the employee and shall not be reimbursed to the employee by the university. A communication allowance is not considered an entitlement, is not part of an employee's base salary, and may be changed and/or withdrawn by the university at any time. Allowance payments are not subject to retirement deductions.
The University Purchasing Office Director will periodically determine the allowance rate for the acquisition and activation of communication devices. The rate will be determined based on estimates of current market acquisition and activation fee costs multiplied by approximately 50 percent. Such amounts are not intended to fully reimburse the employee for the total out-of-pocket costs of acquisition and activation given that the device is expected to be owned by the employee and used for both personal and business use.
The current allowance rate is listed on the Communication Device Allowance Request.
An employee may receive a communication device allowance only once every two years. Departments must process such allowances in accordance with the provisions established by Payroll Services.
The university Purchasing Office Director will periodically determine the monthly communication service allowance rates for the operation of communication devices. The allowances will be determined based on cost estimates of current market service plans multiplied by approximately 50 percent. Such amounts are not intended to fully reimburse the employee for their total monthly out-of-pocket costs given that the device is expected to be used by the employee for both personal and business use.
The current allowance rates are listed on the Communication Device Allowance Request.
Approved monthly communication service allowances will be provided to employees as monthly salary supplements. A department must establish the monthly salary supplements using the UT Direct Communication Device page in accordance with the enrollment provisions established by Payroll Services.
An employee receiving a monthly communication service allowance from The University of Texas at Austin may not receive an allowance for the same or similar device or service from another department of the university or another component institution of The University of Texas System. Direct reimbursements to individuals for these expenses outside the allowance process are also not allowed.
A monthly communication service allowance salary supplement may be established at any time during a fiscal year and may be changed or withdrawn at any time for any reason by the department head.
During annual budget planning, department heads should evaluate the ability to continue to provide monthly communication device and service allowances in the context of its overall budget.
State funds may be used for communication device allowances. Restricted funds that specifically prohibit such allowances may not be used.
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