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Telecommunications

Directive Statement

Departments have three options in terms of handling the business use of cell phones and similar wireless communication devices. This Directive provides guidance on the options departments have in providing such devices and the responsibilities that departments, as well as faculty and staff, have regarding the use of cell phones and similar wireless communication devices.

A monthly communication plan reimbursement may be established at any time during a fiscal year and may be changed or withdrawn at any time for any reason by the department head. Department heads may wait to establish reimbursements until the expiration of existing contracts if they choose. Appropriate documentation and record keeping procedures should be put in place immediately, regardless of the option chosen.

  1. Monetary Reimbursement for Employee-owned Devices– Provide faculty and staff members that require such cell phones and/or similar wireless communication devices with a reimbursement (non-taxable) for the acquisition of the device and the monthly service charges. This is the preferred method of providing faculty and staff with cell phone service when it is required for their job duties.
  2. University Provided Cell Phones and Other Communication Devices– Provide University owned cell phones and similar wireless communication equipment and service to faculty and staff that have a demonstrated and documented need for such equipment and service. Departments must maintain documentation of the justification for the staff or faculty members’ need for the device.
  3. Reimbursement for Business Use of Personal Phone– Reimburse the faculty or staff member for business calls paid for by the faculty or staff using personal phone service and who does not receive a monthly cell phone reimbursement. Written evidence such as a telephone log or diary and copies of the phone bill including the business purpose will need to be provided to document these reimbursements as well. This method may be appropriate when the business need to make cell phone calls is infrequent.

Departmental Responsibility

The department is responsible for the following:

  1. Determining whether the faculty or staff’s position requires a communication device based upon his or her job responsibilities and maintaining appropriate documentation to support this in the departmental files (options 1 and 2)
  2. Determining which of the allowed acquisition methods is most appropriate to a faculty or staff member requiring a communication device (options 1, 2, and 3)
  3. If a communication device reimbursement is granted to the faculty or staff member, to ensure that documentation supporting the amount is maintained in the departmental files, along with the non-compensatory business purpose (option 1)
  4. If a communication device reimbursement is granted to the faculty or staff member, processing the reimbursement through the Accounts Payable system (option 1)
  5. If a University owned communication device is provided, to ensure that appropriate detail documentation is maintained to support the business purpose (option 2)
  6. University provided equipment remains the property of the University and must be turned into the department head or designee when the equipment or cell phone service is no longer needed, or if the faculty or staff member transfers or terminates their employment with the University (option 2)
  7. If a faculty or staff member receiving a monthly service plan reimbursement terminates or changes departments, Disbursements must be contacted to close the voucher and discontinue the reimbursement (option 2)

Faculty and Staff Responsibility

Faculty and staff are responsible for the following:

  1. When reimbursements for cell phone use are granted to faculty and staff it may be necessary for the employee to provide the department head with appropriate information or documentation to support the expected business need and the amount of the reimbursement. The faculty or staff member should also notify their department head when there has been a significant change in the business need for a cell phone reimbursement (option 1)
  2. When reimbursements are granted, paying all amounts due as agreed between the employee and the communication device service provider (option 1)
  3. For University owned devices, ensuring that the device is used primarily for University business. The University recognizes that incidental personal use is possible but is considered infrequent and non-routine (option 2)
  4. Ensuring the physical protection of University owned devices from damage or unauthorized use (option 2)
  5. Ensuring that University owned devices are returned to the University when it is no longer needed or the faculty or staff member transfers or terminates employment with the department (option 2)
  6. Providing the University department with the current access number or address of the communication device within five working days of activation (options 1 and 2)
  7. Notifying the department head within five days of inactivation of the device. An employee is prohibited from continuing to collect a monthly communication plan reimbursement when the device is no longer active or needed for the performance of the employee’s job responsibilities (option 1)
  8. For University owned devices, use for commercial “for profit” activities is prohibited (option 2)
  9. For University owned devices, political use pursuant to current IRS rulings is prohibited (option 2)
  10. For both employee-owned and University owned devices, adherence to the University’s mobile device security policies (options 1, 2, and 3)

Reason for Directive

Cellular telephones and similar wireless communication devices have become common place and are now often necessary for staff and faculty to carry out their responsibilities in an effective and efficient manner. The cost of the business use of these phones and other devices is large and needs to be properly managed by University departments. Additionally, such items are subject to scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other auditors who would look for assurance that the costs incurred for cell phone use are required for employees to perform their job duties. Information on cell phone providers and their respective pricing options is available from the Procurement website.

Who must comply?

All University departments.

Option 1: Monetary Reimbursement for Employee-Owned Devices

This is the preferred method of providing faculty and staff with cell phone service when it is required for their job duties.

Ownership

A communication device acquired by this method is considered the personal property of the employee and, accordingly, may be used in any way the employee deems appropriate. Any service contract entered into by the employee related to the acquisition and operation of a communication device acquired by this method is personal to the faculty or staff member. The University will have no obligation or make any guarantees with respect to such contracts. However, the University will provide a letter to any cell phone provider that the cell phone is to be used for the conduct of University business, if the cell phone provider will provide discounts or University rates. Departments providing faculty and staff with cell phone reimbursements should ensure that faculty and staff are familiar with the requirements of this directive.

Determination of Appropriate Reimbursement Amounts

It is the intent of this directive to provide department heads with the latitude necessary to provide fair reimbursements to faculty and staff while maintaining proper budget control. It is not expected that the amount of the reimbursement will always cover the total cost of the equipment or service plan, since it is expected that the device will be used for personal as well as business use.

Department heads should document how they arrived at the amount of the reimbursement and the non-compensatory business purpose and maintain documentation of how the allowance was determined for audit purposes.

Restrictions

A faculty or staff member receiving a monthly communication plan reimbursement from the University may not receive reimbursement for the same or similar devices from another department or component unit of the University.

Wireless communication devices or monthly communication plan reimbursements may not be acquired or paid from Federally-funded projects unless a Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) Exemption Form has been approved by the Division of Sponsored Research for that grant.

Types of Reimbursement

A department may elect to reimburse the employee’s purchase and operation of a communication device that employee’s job duties, in the opinion of the department head, necessitate providing such a device. When reimbursements are provided, they can include either or both of the following:

  1. Communication Device Equipment Purchase Reimbursement– Provides a periodic reimbursement towards the employee’s personal acquisition of a communication device and payment of initial activation fees, upon proof of receipt. A communication device equipment reimbursement may be paid no more often than once every two years.
    The appropriate reimbursement should be determined and documented by the department head but should not be more than $150 for a cell phone or $250 for a similar wireless device. Any extraordinary circumstances that might require exception to these limits would need to be approved by the Dean or appropriate Vice President and appropriately documented.
  2. Monthly Communication Service Plan Reimbursement– Provides a monthly reimbursement for the operation of a communication device. The reimbursement may be provided to the employee for as long as the employee’s department head determines that he or she qualifies under this policy.
    Typically, such reimbursements would be in the $40 per month range. However, because use and needs can vary significantly, the appropriate allowance should be determined and documented by the department head but should not be more than $150 per month. Any extraordinary circumstances that might require exceptions to this limit would need to be approved by the appropriate Dean or Vice President and appropriately documented.

Procedures for Processing Reimbursements

All payments will be entered in Accounts Payable and paid through a voucher process. The monthly communication service plan reimbursement should be reviewed and entered annually for each fiscal year (July 1 – June 30).  An equipment purchase reimbursement should be entered no more than once every two years.

  1. Complete the Wireless Device Reimbursement Request Form form, including all required signatures
  2. Follow the steps in the UF HR Toolkit – Paying for Wireless Device Reimbursements Using an Unencumbered Voucher
  3. Attach (or fax image) the completed form to the voucher
  4. Maintain the completed form in the department as documentation for audit purposes

If changes in the required business use of the communication device occur, modifications may be required. Contact Disbursements with questions.

Option 2 – University-Provided Cell Phones and Other Communication Devices

Departments must maintain documentation of the justification for the employee’s need for the device and ensure employees are aware of the requirements of this directive.

Justification for Cell Phones

When a department requests cell phones, as well as periodically (but not less often than annually) after the phones are acquired, it should review the cellular telephone contracts relative to the choice of billing plans considering:

  1. The demonstrated need for the cell phone for each specific user
  2. The most economical billing plan for each specific user
  3. Personal use should not be used as justification for higher value services

Use of University-Provided Cell Phones

University-provided cell phones should be used primarily for official business purposes. However, it is recognized that occasions may occur where personal calls may be unavoidable.

When University-owned equipment is provided to faculty or staff it remains the property of the University and must be returned to the department head or designee as soon as the equipment is no longer needed, or if the faculty or staff member transfers or terminates their employment with the University.

Option 3 – Reimbursement for Business Use of Personal Phone

This method may be appropriate when the business need to make cell phone calls is infrequent.

A copy of the personal cell phone bill is required to be provided to the departmental financial manager with the calls identified as being business related and the business purpose. A memo requesting reimbursement should accompany the personal cell phone bill charges being reimbursed and forwarded to Disbursements to support the payment. As noted earlier, department heads are authorized to reimburse faculty and staff for business related calls in which they incurred a business expense using their personal cell phone service. Such reimbursements would need to be properly documented and processed through Disbursements as an expense reimbursement. Typically this method would be used when a faculty or staff’s need to make business calls using a cell phone is infrequent and they are not being provided a monthly reimbursement for cell phone use.

Last Revised

6/19/2019: reviewed content

Resources

Mobile Device Security

Procurement Website

Toolkits

UF HR Toolkit – Paying for Wireless Device Reimbursements Using an Unencumbered Voucher

Contacts

Disbursements: (352) 392-1241