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Is There a Fringe Benefit Tax? A Primer on De Minimis Rules

Demistify which fringe benefits count as de minimis, and see where you can save on company taxes.

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Kristin Hoppe
Sep 23, 20212 minutes
We detangle fringe benefit taxes and give you a primer on de minimis rules.

The difference between perks, benefits, and fringe benefits can get sticky (as we’ve stated in previous blog posts and whitepapers). Once you think you’ve finally got the difference between them figured out, another term pops up: de minimis benefits.

So, what are de minimis benefits? Are they taxable in the same way that some fringe benefits are? We’ve got some answers to help clear it all up.

What Are De Minimis Benefits?

De minimis benefits (also known as de minimis fringe benefits) are minor employee rewards that  are so small, it’s considered unreasonable or impractical to account for them. Because of this exception, your company doesn’t have to include de minimis benefits under IRS Code section 123(a)(4).

What Counts Under the De Minimis Exception?

The key emphasis for employee rewards here is occasional. Nearly all the amenities below either need to be offered occasionally or used primarily for business purposes. Fringe benefits considered de minimis include:

Food and Entertainment

  • Snacks, like coffee, doughnuts, or soda

  • Meal money for working overtime

  • Tickets for entertainment events

Frequent and higher cost meals have different tax rules, which you can learn about here.

The Ins and Outs of Fringe Benefits

Clear up any confusion around fringe benefits.

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Electronics

Miscellaneous Gifts

Supplemental Insurance

  • Specifically, group-term life insurance for an employee spouse or dependent, with a face value of under $2,000

We also have a more extensive list that includes which employees are ineligible for these exceptions.

What Doesn’t Count Under the Exception?

Fringe benefits with a higher price tag will not fall under the de minimis umbrella. This is especially true when it comes to taxable items of worth. Here are some examples of what is worth too much to count as a de minimis benefit:

  • Cash or cash equivalent

  • Gift certificates redeemable for merchandise

  • Meal money calculated on business hours worked

  • Vacation, meals, and lodging

  • Theater or sports tickets

  • Securities

How Do I Report De Minimis Benefits?

If your fringe benefits fall under the de minimis definition, they are negligible enough that you don’t have to report them. All other fringe benefits are subject to income tax withholding and should be included in the recipient’s W-2 form.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.