Hope Everyone Has Been Keeping Track of Those Cell Phone Minutes

I remember the first time I worked in a news operation that provided cell telephones to the field crews. It was at WEVU TV in Ft. Myers/Naples and the cell phone unit was about the size of a 12 volt car battery. It had a shoulder strap and it was quite the big deal to have in the field. Of course we only had one cell phone in the newsroom and it was handed out on a “need to use” basis. Since cell phone minutes were expensive, we only used it on special occasions. Later when I started work at WREG, cell phones were still not commonly used. We used pay phones to call in when we were out of radio range. I remember when the West Memphis murders of three little boys occurred and the news director gave me his personal(company issued) cell phone to use. It was a Motorola Tac phone which was relatively small at the time but huge compared to modern phones. Eventually all videographers were given cell phones to use strictly for business. Of course some folks ran up huge bills which in turn prompted a crackdown on cell phone usage. Apparently some folks didn’t realize that the station received an itemized account of each cell phone’s calls. I think some folks even lost their jobs while others received a good a** chewing. Which leads me to my point in this post.

It seems from Day 1, back when cell phones were considered a luxury item that the IRS says you are supposed to keep track of the usage if you use it for business. According to an article on Yahoo about cell phones, even if your company provides you with a cell phone, you are supposed to keep track of any personal calls as well as the business calls.  Here’s an excerpt of that article:If you use a cell phone for work (one provided by your company), you’re supposed to keep a detailed log of every call you make on that phone, recording whether each call is for work or for personal use. If you don’t, and even if 100 percent of the calls are for work purposes, your employer, by law, can’t consider your phone a business expense. Instead, it has to consider the phone a perk provided by the company, which means its value has to be treated as taxable income to you.

The article goes on to say while most employers ignore the law, the IRS has cracked down on some organizations with UCLA being one.  And while some in Congress hope to change the law, right now I’d say it’s a safe bet that there are a lot of law breakers out there.  And yes, your chances of getting caught are slim to none, but remember when everybody was downloading music on the internet for free.  Eventually some folks got taken to court where the powers that be made examples of them.  Hope none of you end up as examples.

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