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Publication 535

Kinds of Pay(p6)

Some of the ways you may provide pay to your employees in addition to regular wages or salaries are discussed next. For specialized and detailed information on employees' pay and the employment tax treatment of employees' pay, see Publications 15, 15-A, and 15-B.


You can generally deduct amounts you pay to your employees as awards, whether paid in cash or property. If you give property to an employee as an employee achievement award, your deduction may be limited.

Achievement awards.(p7)

An achievement award is an item of tangible personal property that meets all the following requirements.
Length-of-service award.(p7)
An award will qualify as a length-of-service award only if either of the following applies.
Safety achievement award.(p7)
An award for safety achievement will qualify as an achievement award unless one of the following applies.
  1. It is given to a manager, administrator, clerical employee, or other professional employee.
  2. During the tax year, more than 10% of your employees, excluding those listed in (1), have already received a safety achievement award (other than one of very small value).
Deduction limit.(p7)
Your deduction for the cost of employee achievement awards given to any one employee during the tax year is limited to the following.
A qualified plan award is an achievement award given as part of an established written plan or program that does not favor highly compensated employees as to eligibility or benefits.
A highly compensated employee is an employee who meets either of the following tests.
  1. The employee was a 5% owner at any time during the year or the preceding year.
  2. The employee received more than $115,000 in pay for the preceding year.
You can choose to ignore test (2) if the employee was not also in the top 20% of employees ranked by pay for the preceding year.
An award is not a qualified plan award if the average cost of all the employee achievement awards given during the tax year (that would be qualified plan awards except for this limit) is more than $400. To figure this average cost, ignore awards of nominal value.
Deduct achievement awards as a nonwage business expense on your return or business schedule.
You may not owe employment taxes on the value of some achievement awards you provide to an employee. See Publication 15-B.


You can generally deduct a bonus paid to an employee if you intended the bonus as additional pay for services, not as a gift, and the services were performed. However, the total bonuses, salaries, and other pay must be reasonable for the services performed. If the bonus is paid in property, see Property, later.

Gifts of nominal value.(p7)

If, to promote employee goodwill, you distribute food or merchandise of nominal value to your employees at holidays, you can deduct the cost of these items as a nonwage business expense. Your deduction for de minimis gifts of food or drink are not subject to the 50% deduction limit that generally applies to meals. For more information on this deduction limit, see Meals and lodging, later.

Education Expenses(p7)

If you pay or reimburse education expenses for an employee, you can deduct the payments if they are part of a qualified educational assistance program. Deduct them on the "Employee benefit programs" or other appropriate line of your tax return. For information on educational assistance programs, see Educational Assistance in section 2 of Publication 15-B.

Fringe Benefits(p7)

A fringe benefit is a form of pay for the performance of services. You can generally deduct the cost of fringe benefits.
You may be able to exclude all or part of the value of some fringe benefits from your employees' pay. You also may not owe employment taxes on the value of the fringe benefits. See Table 2-1, Special Rules for Various Types of Fringe Benefits, in Publication 15-B for details.
Your deduction for the cost of fringe benefits for activities generally considered entertainment, amusement, or recreation, or for a facility used in connection with such an activity (for example, a company aircraft) for certain officers, directors, and more-than-10% shareholders is limited.
Certain fringe benefits are discussed next. See Publication 15-B for more details on these and other fringe benefits.

Meals and lodging.(p7)

You can usually deduct the cost of furnishing meals and lodging to your employees. Deduct the cost in whatever category the expense falls. For example, if you operate a restaurant, deduct the cost of the meals you furnish to employees as part of the cost of goods sold. If you operate a nursing home, motel, or rental property, deduct the cost of furnishing lodging to an employee as expenses for utilities, linen service, salaries, depreciation, etc.
Deduction limit on meals.(p7)
You can generally deduct only 50% of the cost of furnishing meals to your employees. However, you can deduct the full cost of the following meals.

Employee benefit programs.(p7)

Employee benefit programs include the following.
You can generally deduct amounts you spend on employee benefit programs on the applicable line of your tax return. For example, if you provide dependent care by operating a dependent care facility for your employees, deduct your costs in whatever categories they fall (utilities, salaries, etc.).
Life insurance coverage.(p7)
You cannot deduct the cost of life insurance coverage for you, an employee, or any person with a financial interest in your business, if you are directly or indirectly the beneficiary of the policy. See Regulations section 1.264-1 for more information.
Welfare benefit funds.(p7)
A welfare benefit fund is a funded plan (or a funded arrangement having the effect of a plan) that provides welfare benefits to your employees, independent contractors, or their beneficiaries. Welfare benefits are any benefits other than deferred compensation or transfers of restricted property.
Your deduction for contributions to a welfare benefit fund is limited to the fund's qualified cost for the tax year. If your contributions to the fund are more than its qualified cost, carry the excess over to the next tax year.
Generally, the fund's "qualified cost" is the total of the following amounts, reduced by the after-tax income of the fund.
For more information, see sections 419(c) and 419A of the Internal Revenue Code and the related regulations.

Loans or Advances(p8)

You generally can deduct as wages an advance you make to an employee for services performed if you do not expect the employee to repay the advance. However, if the employee performs no services, treat the amount you advanced as a loan. If the employee does not repay the loan, treat it as income to the employee.

Below-market interest rate loans.(p8)

On certain loans you make to an employee or shareholder, you are treated as having received interest income and as having paid compensation or dividends equal to that interest. See Below-Market Loans in chapter 4.


If you transfer property (including your company's stock) to an employee as payment for services, you can generally deduct it as wages. The amount you can deduct is the property's fair market value on the date of the transfer less any amount the employee paid for the property.
You can claim the deduction only for the tax year in which your employee includes the property's value in income. Your employee is deemed to have included the value in income if you report it on Form W-2 in a timely manner.
You treat the deductible amount as received in exchange for the property, and you must recognize any gain or loss realized on the transfer, unless it is the company's stock transferred as payment for services. Your gain or loss is the difference between the fair market value of the property and its adjusted basis on the date of transfer.
These rules also apply to property transferred to an independent contractor for services, generally reported on Form 1099-MISC.

Restricted property.(p8)

If the property you transfer for services is subject to restrictions that affect its value, you generally cannot deduct it and do not report gain or loss until it is substantially vested in the recipient. However, if the recipient pays for the property, you must report any gain at the time of the transfer up to the amount paid.
"Substantially vested" means the property is not subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture. This means that the recipient is not likely to have to give up his or her rights in the property in the future.

Reimbursements for Business Expenses(p8)

You can generally deduct the amount you pay or reimburse employees for business expenses incurred for your business. However, your deduction may be limited.
If you make the payment under an accountable plan, deduct it in the category of the expense paid. For example, if you pay an employee for travel expenses incurred on your behalf, deduct this payment as a travel expense. If you make the payment under a nonaccountable plan, deduct it as wages and include it in the employee's Form W-2.
See Reimbursement of Travel, Meals, and Entertainment in chapter 11 for more information about deducting reimbursements and an explanation of accountable and nonaccountable plans.

Sick and Vacation Pay(p8)


Sick pay.(p8)

You can deduct amounts you pay to your employees for sickness and injury, including lump-sum amounts, as wages. However, your deduction is limited to amounts not compensated by insurance or other means.

Vacation pay.(p8)

Vacation pay is an employee benefit. It includes amounts paid for unused vacation leave. You can deduct vacation pay only in the tax year in which the employee actually receives it. This rule applies regardless of whether you use the cash or accrual method of accounting.