Cell Phone Allowance

Cell Phone Allowance Policy


This policy outlines EMU’s position on cell phones needed for EMU business and outlines the procedure to obtain an allowance for business use of a personal cell phone. The Internal Revenue Service has designated cell phones as “listed property” for purposes of Section 280F of the Internal Revenue Code. One of the consequences of that designation is strict substantiation requirements of business and personal use. If the strict substantiation requirements are not met, all allowances and reimbursements are includible in taxable wages of the employee. The EMU policy is intended to provide for satisfying the IRS requirements by treating allowances as taxable wages, by prohibiting personal use of university cell phones provided, and by requiring strict substantiation of any non-allowance reimbursements for cell phone costs.

Policy Statement

EMU will own and provide a limited number of cell phones for business use by personnel on a shared basis. EMU will also provide an allowance toward the cost of use of personally owned cell phones for business purposes for certain personnel where frequent use of a cell phone for business purposes is an ordinary and necessary expectation, or where there is a need for availability for emergency situations. Cell phones should not be selected as an alternative to other means of communication – e.g., land lines, pagers, and radio phones – when such alternatives would provide adequate and less costly service to the university. Persons otherwise eligible for an allowance may choose to forego the allowance as a de-facto contribution to the university. The amount of the allowance provided will be intended to reimburse the user for the marginal cost of business use of their personal phone. Costs of the telephone and accessories are not covered by the allowance and are not a reimbursable expense.

1.     Shared University-Owned Phone

The Information Systems Department (IS) will provide a limited number of phones for use where the phone is not assigned to a single individual, but is used for a particular function that involves a number of people, generally on a rotating basis (e.g., on-call position in physical plant and residence life, security, etc.). These phones may be assigned to a department or signed out from IS on an “as-needed” basis. The department(s) using the phones will be responsible for charges for calls made and a pro-rata share of the monthly service fee. Use of shared phones for personal calls is not permitted.

2.      Allowances

Persons who have a need for a cell phone for university business are eligible for an allowance toward the cost of personal cell phone service. The type of needs contemplated are:

a) The needs of persons whose job entails frequent travel and who need to stay in close contact with their office as well as make contacts while on the road.

b) The needs of persons whose jobs involve moderate amounts of travel who need to make contacts while on the road and to be readily available to the home office while traveling.

c) The needs of persons whose jobs on campus require significant time out of the office and who need to available for contacts frequently while out of the office and outside of normal office hours.

d) The needs of persons whose job requires 24 hour availability for emergency contact, but where the volume of contacts do not generate significant phone usage, or where the use of a cell phone is an alternative to a pager.

The monthly allowances established for categories a through d above are category a) $50, categories b) and c) $25, and category d) $10. Allowances are requested on a Cell Phone Allowance Request Form submitted by the divisional vice president for the employee receiving the allowance and are to be sent to the vice president for finance for authorization. Authorized requests are forwarded to Human Resources for implementation. Allowances remain in effect until notice to terminate the allowance is received from one of the approving signers.

3.     Specific Reimbursement

Persons using a personal cell phone for EMU business on an occasional basis may claim a reimbursement equal to the actual cost of the calls made. The actual cost of call for this purpose included any charges specific to the call and a prorated share of the monthly service fee.


  • EMU does not reimburse the cost of personally owned equipment (phones and accessories)
  • Departments are responsible for oversight of employees wireless phone usage and costs incurred
  • Departmental authorization of use of a cell phone is required for either an allowance or specific reimbursement
  • Persons with similar job titles may have differing needs for business use of a cell phone
  • Specific reimbursements must be supported by call detail and cost calculations
  • Charging a portion of a personal cell phone charge on an EMU credit card without supporting detail is not permitted
  • An “allowance” is only permitted through the payroll process

Responsible Party

Responsibility for this policy is with the vice president for finance. Implementation is the responsibility of the director of human resources.

Policy Review

This policy will be reviewed every five years by the vice president for finance and the director of human resources, or as requested by a division head.

Policy Distribution

Faculty/Staff Handbook

Adopted by President’s Cabinet, June 28, 2006
Reviewed and updated by President’s Cabinet, June 26, 2007
Reviewed by Human Resources Director, April 2020