IRS calls on Congress to repeal "burdensome" cell phone tax rules

Just days after announcing a new attempt to get a handle on taxing the business portion of cell phone use by suggesting a flat 75% business/25% personal division of expenses on cell phones used as business phones for purposes of determining tax deductible expenses, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman has suddenly changed gears and is asking Congress to repeal the designation of cell phones as listed property.

In a published statement, Shulman wrote:

This month, the Internal Revenue Service asked for comments on ways to simplify compliance with rules related to employer-provided cellular telephones. The current law, which has been on the books for many years, is burdensome, poorly understood by taxpayers, and difficult for the IRS to administer consistently. Some have incorrectly implied that the IRS is "cracking down" on employee use of employer-provided cell phones. To the contrary, the IRS is attempting to simplify the rules and eliminate uncertainty for businesses and individuals.

Although some of the proposed changes would add clarity, the current law will inevitably leave widespread confusion among employees and businesses. Therefore, Secretary Geithner and I ask that Congress act to make clear that there will be no tax consequence to employers or employees for personal use of work-related devices such as cell phones provided by employers. The passage of time, advances in technology, and the nature of communication in the modern workplace have rendered this law obsolete.

Because it is up to Congress to set the laws that the IRS must follow and enforce, it is now up to Congress to make a change as requested by Shulman and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.