11.23 Technology Allowance Policy

(Amended 5/03; 8/1/07; 10/1/07; 3/08; 7/1/17)

Effective July 1, 2017, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

  1. Introduction. The University of Iowa recognizes that the performance of certain job responsibilities may be enhanced by the provision of communication devices or use of home Internet services. For purposes of this policy, a "communication device" is defined as a cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA) that allows for two-way communication. "Remote Internet service" is defined as any method for bringing Internet service to a computer for the purpose of performing work-related duties at a location other than a University office. This policy establishes methods for making a communication device or remote Internet service available to employees, in conformance with U.S. tax regulations and practices being adopted at peer institutions resulting from Internal Revenue Service audits.

    Departments and colleges may establish policies that are more restrictive, in terms of eligibility and compensation amount, than this University-wide policy.
  2. Acquisition of communication devices and remote Internet. The University will no longer reimburse employees for ongoing business expenses related to communication devices (cell phones or PDAs with cellular capability, such as Blackberry or Treo) or remote Internet service, except for those circumstances noted under paragraph e ("Special situations") below. Instead, University employees who meet the eligibility requirements for business use will be given a predetermined amount of supplemental compensation to cover the approximate monthly cost of a cell phone or cellular PDA, and/or remote Internet service.

    For those who qualify, this policy authorizes the monthly payment of supplemental, taxable compensation as follows: a monthly allowance that is based on the approximate proportion of the service that is used for business purposes, not to exceed the actual monthly service cost incurred by the employee for the communication device or remote Internet service. At the discretion of the employee's departmental administrator, the amount of supplemental compensation can be "grossed up" to negate the additional taxes that will be withheld on the supplemental compensation. To simplify this calculation, the implied tax rate will be 35 percent. The calculation to determine the monthly supplemental compensation is as follows:

            Agreed-upon service plan cost / (100% - 35%)

            Example:

                    Cell phone bill = $50 / month 
                    Business use = 50%

                    Calculation of monthly supplemental compensation:

                    $50 x 50% = $25 
                    ​$25 / (100% - 35%) = $25 / 65% = $38.46
  3. Eligibility requirements for providing communication devices or remote Internet service allowance. The guiding principle for eligibility is that the use of a communication device or remote Internet service by an employee is for the benefit of the University, rather than for the convenience of the employee. This policy applies only to faculty and professional and scientific (P&S) staff. See paragraph e(1) below for how this policy applies to merit staff.

    Specifically, faculty and P&S employees are eligible to receive supplemental, taxable compensation if they meet all of the following criteria:
    1. the employee is classified in the Human Resources system as P&S or faculty; and
    2. the employee's job requires him or her to be readily accessible for frequent contact or critical contact with the public or with University administrators, faculty, staff, or students; and
    3. the requirement for accessibility extends to time away from campus (at home or traveling), involves on-call responsibilities, or the employee's job limits his or her access to regular land-line telephones or Internet access that would satisfy the required business communication needs; and
    4. a strong business case can be made that supports the University incurring the cost of the service.
  4. Equipment costs. Departments may make a one-time taxable payment to the employee through the payroll system not to exceed the actual documented cost of the equipment. When applicable, these types of reimbursements may not be made more than once every two years. In all cases, the employee assumes ownership and all maintenance responsibility for the equipment.
  5. Special situations.
    1. Departmentally owned contracts with pooled-minute plans. Certain units may have special needs that justify departmental ownership of cell phones with a pooled-minute plan. Delivery drivers, maintenance personnel, custodians, information technology services, nursing unit rotations, security, parking ramp personnel, and police officers are examples where phones are assigned or rotated among employees. This would also include organizations that have multiple employees sharing a single cellular phone for on-call rotations. Faculty and staff may qualify for only intermittent and temporary use of departmentally owned cell phones, when the department determines there is a valid, documented business need. In this instance, the communication device can be provided to the employee under a pooled-minute plan for the department. Routine personal calls are not allowed on these contracts and are considered a violation of University policy.
    2. Pagers. Some departments currently use pagers for their communication needs. Since the cost of pagers is very nominal and because potential personal use does not pose a financial risk to the University, it is recommended that departments pay for pagers directly, therefore eliminating the reimbursement of these expenses.
    3. Exceptions. Employees who do not qualify for the supplemental compensation may submit an expense reimbursement request for occasional, incremental business expenses. Incremental business expenses are those calls that result in additional costs that are above and beyond the employee's normal calling plan (e.g., excess minutes, roaming charges).

      When requesting reimbursement, the telecommunication expenses incurred by employees must be additional (incremental) costs and must be substantiated and documented with a copy of the bill in accordance with University policy and with applicable federal and state laws and regulations.

      An example of a bona fide policy exception would be occasions where employees are traveling for University business and make calls to home or work that involve roaming charges. The University may reimburse those employees for their additional out-of-pocket roaming charges.
    4. International expenses. For employees who receive supplemental compensation, this policy allows for reimbursement of incremental expenses incurred when international travel is involved for official business calls and data transfer.
  6. For further guidance on interpretation of this policy, please refer to the question and answer document at https://uiowa.edu/ap-purchasing/technology-policy