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Cellular Device

This policy assumes most employees currently use and maintain personal cell phone plans.  It provides guidance for Carleton supervisors and employees who use cell phones and personal data assistants to conduct business on behalf of the College in excess of the plan they maintain for their personal use.  This policy was created to establish consistent guidelines for employees throughout the institution; ensure compliance with IRS regulation and stabilize spending within available budgets. 

The IRS considers a supplemental allowance for cellular devices to be a non taxable benefit if there is documentation to support the business requirement for a plan and a record substantiating the cost of the plan. 

Carleton College will provide a “supplemental cellular allowance” for employees whose job duties include the frequent need for a cellular device.   The allowance will be processed through payroll.  The employee will be responsible for selecting and paying for the cellular service they desire.  This allows employees to choose a plan that fits both their professional and personal lives.  If you choose an all-in-one device, please consult Carleton Information Technology Services for recommended equipment.  Employees will not be required to itemize their professional versus personal calls.  A detailed monthly invoice will be required in June each year to substantiate the benefit and meet documentation IRS requirements and confirm their eligibility for continued participation in the program.

Supplemental cellular allowances will not be approved when alternative means of communication –e.g., land-lines, pagers, and radio phones – provide an adequate and less costly service option. 


I.  Frequent Use of Cellular Devices for Business Purposes

  1. Establishment and Payment of Allowance.
    If a direct supervisor determines it is necessary and appropriate for an employee to receive a cellular allowance, the supervisor may submit the Cellular Allowance Request Form to the Purchasing Department for processing. This allowance does not constitute an increase to base pay, and will not be included in the calculation of percentage increase to base pay due to annual raises, job upgrades, etc.
  1. Determination of Eligibility
    The guiding principle for eligibility is that the use of a cell phone or cellular PDA by an employee is for the primary benefit of the College. In making a monthly allowance determination, College employees are eligible if they meet all of the following criteria:

          1) The employee must be readily accessible for frequent contact with the public or with College faculty,  staff or students;

          2)  The employee spends a minimum of 6 weeks traveling and must have regular access to telephone and/or Internet      service while off-campus;

         3)  Monthly usage for business purposes is consistently 50% or more of total contract minutes.


         4) The employee is required to provide extended hour support for critical services at the college or is responsible for operational or decision making for critical services at the college both during the work day and beyond normal work hours.  Alternatively, the employee is required to be mobile across campus and off campus for a significant portion of their work hours.  The extended hour support for critical services eligibility criteria does not ordinarily apply to faculty/student communications, even though these communications may occur outside of regular business hours.

  1. Determination of Dollar Amount of Allowance (Revised 7/1/12)
    The “monthly cellular allowance” is set up to accommodate various levels of business use.  Allowances are revised as cellular market conditions evolve and institutional operating budgets change:
0-450 $20 $240 $0
451-899 $ 45 $ 540 $0
Unlimited Voice & Data 900 Minutes $ 75 $900 $200
Device Only $0 $0 $200
Add ons:  International Access, GPS $10 (MAX) $120 $0

* The One-time equipment purchase is based on a 2 year period of time and is provided at the time of new contract (documentation required).  Most cellular carriers offer numerous contracts with free or low cost phones.  Accessories, lost, stolen or broken equipment are the responsibility of the employee.  If an individual chooses to purchase insurance, it is at their own expense.

The supervisor must have the Cellular Allowance Request Form approved by the budget manager responsible for the expense and submit the form with the most recent detailed cell phone invoice to the Purchasing Department for processing.

Supervisors are responsible for an annual review of employee business-related cell-phone use, to determine if existing cellular device allowances should continue, change, or discontinue.  Individual users must supply their last month’s detail invoice to their supervisor who will review and forward the documentation to the Purchasing Department every June to substantiate the benefit per IRS guidelines.  A cell phone allowance may not transfer to a new position and must be evaluated by the new supervisor and budget manager.

The cellular device contract will be in the name of the employee responsible for all payments to the service provider.  Only one cell phone allowance will be provided per employee.  The college reserves the right to remove a participant from this plan if there is insufficient budget in the designated fund to meet the cost of monthly allowances.

Carleton will pay only the agreed upon cellular device allowance even if monthly costs exceed the allowance.  Changes to the allowance may be made during the annual review process by submitting a new approval/change form. The allowance for a joint family plan will be half of the basic 2 person invoice but not more than the applicable allowance.

The employee is responsible for the purchase of the cell phone equipment to be used for basic cell service (most basic cell service plans provide free phones).  Costs for cosmetic or technical extras that have no business purpose are the responsibility of the employee.  Insurance, if purchased, is the responsibility of the employee.


Certain departments may have special needs that justify departmental ownership of cell phones. Club sport programs, resident advisors, maintenance personnel, custodians, and security are examples, of areas where phones may be assigned or rotated among employees. This would also include departments that have multiple employees sharing a single cellular phone for on-call rotations. Employees should not use departmental cell phones for personal calls.

Some departments currently use pagers for their communication needs. Since the cost of pagers is very nominal ($10.00 per month) and potential personal use unlikely, it is recommended that departments pay for pagers directly.

In situations where access to a device is a critical professional requirement, the College will provide a device only allowance.  There is no other support for ongoing expenses related to using and maintaining the devices.  There will be a two year replacement cycle for the devices subject to budget constraints.

This policy allows for reimbursement of incremental expenses incurred when international travel is involved for official business calls and data transfer.

The College will not provide direct payments to a vendor for the purchase of equipment or monthly cellular devices for an individual employee.  Additionally, the College will not enter into contracts with vendors for employee use of cellular devices service.  The employee will be the direct holder of a contract with the cellular company.

The Carleton College purchase cards will no longer be allowed for monthly cellular devices service fees or for related equipment purchases.  Existing College contracts for employee-used cellular service should be transitioned from Carleton to the employee and begins the taxable monthly allowance as soon as possible. The Purchasing Manager will assist individuals in this transition.  

Carleton does not accept any liability for claims, charges or disputes between the service provider and individual employee.  Recipients of a cellular device allowance must notify Carleton of the cellular phone number and must continue to maintain the cellular device while in receipt of the allowance.

Use of the cellular device in any manner contrary to local, state, or federal laws will constitute misuse, and will result in immediate termination of the cell phone allowance.

Phones must not be used while you are driving a vehicle.  Please let someone else in the car talk on the phone or pull over to the side of the road to talk or use the phone in any manner.

If an employee's job duties do not include the frequent need for a cellular device, the employee is not eligible for an allowance. Such employees may request reimbursement for their business related cellular calls. The individual should make personal payment to the provider, and then submit a request for reimbursement. 

The reimbursement rate is $0.45 per minute for domestic business calls which exceed the base plan.  International calls will be reimbursed at the rate detailed on the invoice.   When requesting reimbursement, a copy of the cellular bill, detailing the individual calls to be reimbursed along with the business purpose, needs to accompany the reimbursement request. 

No reimbursement for minutes covered by a base plan will be provided.

Business calls made on Pay As You Go Plans will be reimbursed at the invoiced rate.  A copy of the cellular bill detailing who was called and the business purpose must accompany the reimbursement request.

Once the Purchasing Department receives the Allowance Request Form and service in the employee’s name is confirmed, the Payroll Department will add the allowance to that individual’s payroll check. 

If, prior to the end of the cell phone contract, a personal decision by the employee, or employee misconduct, or misuse of the phone, results in the need to end or change the cell phone contract, the employee will bear the cost of any fees associated with that change or cancellation.

If, prior to the end of the cell phone contract period, a departmental decision (unrelated to employee misconduct) results in the need to end or change the cell phone contract, the department will bear the cost of any fees associated with that change or cancellation. For example, the employee's supervisor has changed the employee's duties and the cell phone is no longer needed for business purposes. If the employee does not want to retain the current contract, change or cancellation fees will be reimbursed by the department with proof of fees incurred.  The department shall notify Purchasing of the change in the cell phone contract.

The Allowance Request Form and a copy of the employee's most recent detailed cellular device invoice must be submitted to Purchasing to initiate an allowance.

On an annual basis, Purchasing will review and refresh the cell phone stipend authorizations.

Supervisors will be asked to review employee business-related cell-phone use, to determine if existing cellular device allowances should be continued as-is, changed, or discontinued. This information and documentation to substantiate current coverage must be submitted to Purchasing each  June for compliance with the IRS documentation requirements. 

Approved by President's Tuesday Group January 2012

Last revised July 24, 2012
Keywords: cell, phone, cell allowance
Maintained by Business Office