Ask the Experts: Taxability of Reimbursements for Mileage
Question: Are amounts an employer reimburses employees for mileage taxable?
Answer: They may be; the type of reimbursement plan will dictate whether reimbursement for business travel is or is not taxable. Both accountable plans and non-accountable plans allow an employer to reimburse employees for their business expenses.
With an accountable plan, the reimbursement is not taxable to your employee. Amounts paid under an accountable plan are not wages and are not subject to income tax withholding and payment of Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) taxes. Your reimbursement or allowance arrangement must meet all of the following conditions in order to quality as an accountable plan:
- There must be a business connection to the expenditure. This means that the expense must be a deductible business expense incurred in connection with services performed as an employee of the employer. If not reimbursed by the employer, the expense may be deductible by the employee from their taxable income.
- There must be adequate accounting by the employee. This means that the employee must give their employer a statement of expense, an account book, a diary, or a similar record in which they entered each use at or near the time it occurred, along with date, mileage, and the business purpose of the use.
- Excess reimbursements or advances must be returned within a reasonable period of time.
A non-accountable plan does not meet the three requirements for accountable plans and is subject to all employment taxes and withholding. Payments under a non-accountable plan occur if: (1) the employee is not required to substantiate expenses with receipts or other documentation in a timely manner; and (2) the employer advances an amount to the employee for business expenses and the employee is not required to, and does not, return any amount he or she does not use for business expenses in a timely manner.
Employers should also check with their state department of taxation to understand any state tax rules applicable to them.
For more detailed information on federal mileage reimbursement, see the IRS page containing Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses, and updates to this publication since its publication date.