Ugh, Taxes!

Previous | Next
 rated by 0 users
Latest post Sun, Dec 25 2016 9:57 PM by LegalSecy. 6 replies.
  • Fri, Dec 23 2016 11:12 AM

    Ugh, Taxes!

    I am responsible for planning and conducting meetings for state employees from all over my state.

    I kind of have a standard way I've done this for years:  When attendees are coming from distances > 100 miles (which happens fairly often) I try to plan the meeting from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and have lunch delivered (usually sandwiches or pizza) so the meeting can continue through the working lunch.

    This way most attendees from most parts of the state can attend the meeting without costing their employer an overnight hotel bill.  All but those the furthest away (or in really bad weather that impairs travel) can usually leave in the morning and be back home the same evening.

    Now I'm getting complaints from meeting participants that they get taxed for the lunch when I schedule it this way.  They say they'd rather have the meeting start at 8 a.m so they have to come the night before and stay in a hotel the night before the meeting, because that way they won't be personally taxed for the meal as income.

    Well, maybe not, but the state would wind up paying a lot more hotel bills that way, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and then the state Agency would also need to pay for their employee's dinner the night before and breakfast morning of the meeting.

    Overall, this seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars.

    Is there any way to hold these meetings (with a working lunch, mid-day) in a way that the state employees attending the meeting don't wind up getting taxed for the meal?

  • Fri, Dec 23 2016 12:51 PM In reply to

    • Kivi
      Consumer
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on Sat, Jan 1 2005
    • CA
    • Posts 6,356

    Re: Ugh, Taxes!

    The cost of a slice or two of pizza and a drink really increases one's tax bill that much?  How many meetings per year are employees expected to attend? It would seem like there would have to be a lot of meetings before it would make that much of a difference in one's overall tax bill.

    That being said, why don't you investigate whether these meetings can be held via video conferencing? Then no one has to do any traveling in good or bad weather and you don't have to worry about the food at all. Moreover, they can go right back to work when the meeting is over, versus the nonproductive but paid time spent on the road going to and from these meetings. The cost of video conferencing equipment has come way down over the years and the technology has gotten pretty good as well.

    I am now retired, but shortly before my retirement from the Federal government, we pretty much went to video conferencing for our meetings/accountability reviews, etc. I worked for a relatively small agency with small   offices all over the country (including Hawaii). The biggest reason that this change occurred were the cost savings that pretty much justified the investment in the technology. Granted, our travel costs probably were a lot higher than what your employees incur with one overnight hotel stay. But one of the costs that also was considered were the costs of paying employees for their travel time when there was relatively little other work they could do while in a plane or driving a car, etc.   

     

     

     

     

     

  • Fri, Dec 23 2016 1:02 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Thu, Mar 30 2000
    • PA
    • Posts 51,368

    Re: Ugh, Taxes!

    IF there are 40 people you MA get 40 suggestions that best suit individual preferences and convenience ideas ....and ways to stretch travel times ....you are in charge...you make a decision and stick to it.....your way makes sense...the others have smoke ...but your call



  • Fri, Dec 23 2016 4:22 PM In reply to

    Re: Ugh, Taxes!

    LegalSecy:
    Now I'm getting complaints from meeting participants that they get taxed for the lunch when I schedule it this way.

    Have you checked with the payroll department to see whether they are including the cost of the meals in employees' incomes on their W-2s?  If not, the complainers would seem to be blowing smoke, uh, you know where, at least as far as the taxation issue goes.  If the employees' W-2 incomes ARE being augmented by the cost of the meals, then I guess those who don't like that could be allowed to bring or buy their own lunches - ? At which point work rules may require you to interrupt the meetings for whatever length of time is legally required for a lunch break.

  • Fri, Dec 23 2016 5:27 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Thu, Mar 30 2000
    • PA
    • Posts 51,368

    Re: Ugh, Taxes!

    Having run training programs in a variety of firms ..you will quickly find that for some people the training is but an excuse for other things ...so be it .



  • Sat, Dec 24 2016 3:26 AM In reply to

    Re: Ugh, Taxes!

    How regular are these meetings? At least for the occasional meeting, I think there is a good argument to be made that the meals in this circumstance are a non taxable fringe benefit for the employee. Here, the meals are clearly for the convienence of the employer (as it avoids the higher costs of the employer providing over night lodging and additional meals) and the meal you provide does not cost much is and is provided under circumstances in which the employee does not have the option to do something else for the meal since you are actually working through the lunch period. As such, the meal does not need to be included in the W-2 of the employee and the employee need not report the meal cost as income. See the discussion regarding employer provided meals in IRS Publication 15-B starting at page 15. Especially where the employer is a state government I do not see the IRS challenging fringe benefit treatment here because the employer is not getting a deduction for the meals provided as a fringe benefit, like a private employer would. So there is no tax incentive for the employer in play here.

    I think the employees squawking about the tax inclusion here are primarily angling to get a free night and meals at a hotel out of this. I can see why they’d like that, but I don’t find their tax argument to be a compelling one in this instance.

  • Sun, Dec 25 2016 9:57 PM In reply to

    Re: Ugh, Taxes!

    Okay, thanks for the info.

    I am going to have to get together with HR & find out what I need to do so they don't get taxed.

    The reason I got a bunch of complaints all at once is that apparently the payroll computer program sticks an item on the last paycheck of the year that is the total amount of meals, etc. that it is going to report as income for the entire year, and then it withholds taxes for that amount from the last paycheck.  For some people that amounted to enough that they got noticeably less of a paycheck than they expected. (They may have had day trips during the year, not just the meetings that I convened, that they got taxes withheld for too.)  I got a few of those on my last paycheck for day trips too.

    There is a new computer program keeping track of all this stuff and maybe I'm not filling something out right for the meetings or maybe the computer program is goofy or something.

    Re Technology:  I have tried that.  Unfortunately not every location has videoconferencing ability (our state ranks 48/50 in broadband connectivity) and when people are supposed to be collaborating in work groups its really hard to do it when some are on the phone, some are using Skype, some people can see shared screens and some can't, some people's connections keep sending screeches and loud static so that you can't hear the person who's speaking, etc., etc.  When everybody is just on the phone they all start reading their own e-mail or whatever, and stop paying attention. Maybe in a few years...

Page 1 of 1 (7 items) | RSS

My Community

Community Membership New Users: Search Community