IRS unveils limits for employer-provided vehicles

Employees hitting the road in employer-provided vehicles will be running into a federal tax payment if the car they’re driving is valued more highly than the federal government allows for a tax break.

Use of a job-related vehicle is a fringe benefit. Some fringe benefits escape being counted as income for tax purposes. Others don’t. Some fall in the middle, which means the fringe benefit isn’t taxed until it reaches a certain value.

That’s the case with employer-provided vehicles. IRS Revenue Procedure 2017-3 lays out this year’s limits for employer-provided vehicles first assigned for use by employees during calendar year 2017. If a vehicle is valued above the IRS limits the employee has a tax liability.  

The IRS Procedure outlines two methods through which employees have use of employer-provided vehicles: a cents-per-mile assessment or fleet valuation rule.

  • The valuation limit for passenger vehicles is based on the average of the fair market value of the vehicles in the fleet. Using the fleet valuation rule, if the fleet’s average value doesn’t go above a certain amount, the employee doesn’t owe taxes. If the vehicle an employee is assigned exceeds the fleet average, the employee may owe taxes on the difference. The 2017 fleet valuation under IRS Regulation 1.16-21(d) is $21,100 for a passenger vehicle ($100 lower than 2016), and $23,300 ($200 higher than 2016) for a truck or van.
  • The cents-per-mile category varies in that passenger vehicles is $15,900 (unchanged from 2016), and $17,800 (up from 2016’s $17,700) for a truck or van.

The valuations are tabulated annually based on the Consumer Price Index; therefore, the CPI in the IRS’s view warranted the changes noted above.

Employer-paid vehicle allowances and cents-per-mile payments that exceed IRS-approved totals also receive no tax advantage and must be counted by employees as taxable income. Vehicle expenses can be claimed by employees on their individual tax returns.

Employers sometimes make vehicles available to the spouses of employees for business-related services of the employee, such as a husband or wife making service or sales calls on behalf of their company-employed spouse. In these cases, the vehicle is taxable to the employee. That’s because use by the spouse is also considered use by the employee.

Vehicle usage and other fringe benefits definitions, limitations, and processes are many and vary in complexity. It’s always advisable to have the conversation about vehicles or anything else with an accountant or tax adviser. The nooks and crannies of IRS regulations and requirements are many, as are the potential consequences that come with a misapplication of numbers.

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