Dear Liz: You recently advised an entertainment industry executive about some of the pitfalls of using a credit card provided by his company.
I’m the tax director for a Midwestern company, and I believe that you overlooked a crucial statement in the questioner’s inquiry. He said the company would be paying the bill directly, eliminating the need for him to submit reimbursement requests.
If that’s the case, then the employer’s payments to the credit card company would be considered taxable income to the executive, subject to all withholding and payroll taxes.
He is then responsible for deducting his business expenses on his personal return, probably subject to the 2% limitation on itemized deductions. This is a terrible plan for more than the reasons you identified.
Answer: You just panicked a whole bunch ofÂ HollywoodÂ executives unnecessarily.
Although these arrangements may not be common in theÂ Midwest, they are par for the course in the entertainment industry. Fortunately for these high-living folks, direct reimbursement does not result in taxable income to the executive if the arrangement is part of an “accountableÂ plan,” said Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for tax research firm CCH.
Luscombe cited two private-letter Internal Revenue Service rulings (200304002,Â Aug. 6, 2002; and 200235006,Â May 17, 2002, if you’re interested) in which the IRS laid out the rules for what constitutes anÂ accountableplan.
“In reviewing these rulings, it appears that the card is to be used only for business purposes, cash advances on the card should not be allowed in most cases and the credit card bill provides adequate information for the employer to determine the business purpose of the charge,” Luscombe said.
If the bill isn’t adequate, the employer must require the employee to provide “any additional documentation necessary to support an expense where its validity cannot be established from the credit card bill,” Luscombe said.