Wireless Communication Devices/Telecommunications
View Official Policy: Wireless Communication Devices Telecommunications Policy
Section 1 – Wireless Communication Devices
University departments have the following options for providing employees with wireless communication devices and related services. Utilization of these options must be for the benefit of the University, rather than the convenience of the employee.
Option 1: University Provided Devices and Service
1a) The University will purchase devices and related usage/service plans for assigned employee use in the following circumstances:
- Emergency personnel responsible for protecting physical safety of the general public or responding to public or environmental emergencies, or
- Personnel responsible for responding to critical system failures or service disruptions, or
- On-call personnel, or
- Personnel expected to conduct business while commuting, traveling, or moving between appointments or who cannot adequately meet communications needs with other available means such as a paging device or a radio.
1b) The University will also purchase mobile/wireless devices/cellular telephones/pagers/two-way radios and other communication devices and related services used in the normal course of business. These purchases include:
- Devices included in a “pool” of mobile/wireless communications equipment which are checked-out by users on an “as needed” basis or for “on-call” purposes.
- Devices which do not provide business-related, personal voice and text messaging communications services, but instead are used solely as access points in wireless LAN communications systems.
- Devices used solely for the collection and transmission of research data in an automated process and/or to control and monitor automated research systems.
- Devices used for business purposes in place of standard telephone lines. These devices are typically assigned to a user during the work day/period and secured in the office during non-business hours.
- Mobile/Wireless devices other than those requiring a usage/service plan that are distinctly needed for business use based on the employee’s job requirements. This includes purchase of eReaders, tablet computers, and other mobile digital devices.
Approval to purchase these devices rests within the unit’s regular purchasing processes. These devices and their related service plans are primarily for official business purposes. Personal use should be infrequent (emergencies or extenuating circumstances) and charges incurred as a result of this use should be reimbursed to the University as outlined in the Procedures section.
For all purchases included in Option 1, the University owns the device and will directly contract with a provider to purchase software/applications and any applicable usage/service plans. The University will not enter into a usage/service contract for personally owned devices. For all purchases included in Option 1, University departments must:
- Demonstrate and document the need and justification for such equipment and services.
- Purchase all software/applications/downloads for University business purposes through “business-to-business accounts” in the name of the University, not the name of the employee. Personal use software/applications/downloads is not permitted on University-owned devices.
- Maintain a monthly review of service bills and identify any personal use for reimbursement.
- Conduct an annual inventory of all University-purchased devices and related service plans.
- Conduct an annual review of assigned devices and related service plans to ensure that the devices and the requisite service plan align with the job requirements of the employee using the device.
- Modify services as changes are identified
- Maintain records of annual reviews and inventories and make all related documentation available for inspection by internal and external auditors, and University administrative units.
- Coordinate with Surplus Property for devices which are no longer needed.
The IRS has issued guidance to clarify the tax treatment of employer-provided cell phones. Notice 2011-72 provides that in the case of an employee's use of an employer-provided cell phone for reasons related to the employer's trade or business, the IRS will treat such use as a working condition fringe benefit, the value of which is excludable from the employee's income.
The cell phone must be issued primarily for non-compensatory business reasons, such as the employer's need to contact the employee at all times for work-related emergencies, or the employer's requirement that the employee be available to speak with clients at times when the employee is away from the office or outside the employee's normal work schedule.
If this standard is met, then any personal use (i.e. emergency/extenuating circumstances since University-provided devices are primarily for business use) of the employer-provided cell phone will be treated as a de minimis fringe benefit, excludable from the employee's gross income. The IRS will not require recordkeeping of business use in order to receive this tax-free treatment. Cell phones provided for employee morale, recruiting, or additional compensation are not considered to be provided for qualifying business purposes. Therefore, cell phones provided for such purposes would not be exempt from the burdensome recordkeeping requirements and would not be considered tax-free.
Option 2: Reimbursement for Business Use of Personal Devices
Faculty and staff with infrequent business communication needs other than outlined in Option 1 who utilize a personally-owned device may request reimbursement of business use of their personal device. It is recommended that faculty and staff with regular business communication needs be provided a University owned device and those with infrequent business use of a personal device submit for reimbursement when necessary.
According to IRS document IR-2011-93 (9/14/2011), employees who use their personal cell phones primarily for non-compensatory business reasons may treat reimbursements of expenses for reasonable cell phone use as nontaxable. This treatment does not apply to unusual or excessive expenses.
Right to Monitor Communications and Open Records
The University reserves the right to investigate, retrieve, read, or listen to any communication or data composed, transmitted or received through the University’s voice services, its online connections, and/or stored on its servers and/or property, without further notice to employees, to the maximum extent permissible by law. Express notice to employees stating that there is no right to privacy for any use of University telecommunications equipment and services should be included in the approval form for University-provided devices and services. Information stored on wireless communication devices which is prepared and maintained or received in the performance of a service or function by or on behalf of the University is public information and may be subject to disclosure under the Georgia Open Records Act.
Criteria for Determining Need
The cognizant unit head shall determine if a) dedicated internet or other service plan access or b) partial reimbursement of internet/other service plan is necessary for an employee to perform his or her duties.
The cognizant unit head may approve dedicated internet access or other service plans for an employee in those instances where the duties and responsibilities of an employee warrant dedicated University-use of such access. Such access should be for the benefit of the employer and used for authorized University business purposes. An inventory of approved internet access to be paid directly by the University shall document the employee’s name and address, the internet service provider, the justification for access, and the authorized uses of such access. Such inventory must be reviewed annually, kept current and made available for inspection by auditors, authorized offices or agencies.
Reimbursement to employees for partial business related internet access or other service plan access will be for 50% of the monthly access fee (excluding taxes and other charges) or $20 per month, whichever is less.
Date Issued: 01/01/2016