IRS Publication 463, Accountable Plans

To be an accountable plan, your employer's reimbursement or allowance arrangement must include all three of the following rules.

  1. Your expenses must have a business connection - that is, you must have paid or incurred deductible expenses while performing services as an employee of your employer.

  2. You must adequately account to your employer for these expenses within a reasonable period of time.

  3. You must return any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable period of time.

An excess reimbursement or allowance is any amount you are paid that is more than the business-related expenses that you adequately accounted for to your employer.

The definition of reasonable period of time depends on the facts and circumstances of your situation. However, regardless of the facts and circumstances of your situation, actions that take place within the times specified in the following list will be treated as taking place within a reasonable period of time.

  1. You receive an advance within 30 days of the time you have an expense.

  2. You adequately account for your expenses within 60 days after they were paid or incurred.

  3. You return any excess reimbursement within 120 days after the expense was paid or incurred.

  4. You are given a periodic statement (at least quarterly) that asks you to either return or adequately account for outstanding advances and you comply within 120 days of the statement.

Employee meets accountable plan rules. If you meet the three rules for accountable plans, your employer should not include any reimbursements in your income in box 1 of your Form W-2. If your expenses equal your reimbursement, you do not complete Form 2106. You have no deduction since your expenses and reimbursement are equal.

Tax Tip If your employer included reimbursements in box 1 of your Form W-2 and you meet all three rules for accountable plans, ask your employer for a corrected Form W-2.

Accountable plan rules not met. Even though you are reimbursed under an accountable plan, some of your expenses may not meet all three rules. Those expenses that fail to meet all three rules for accountable plans are treated as having been reimbursed under a nonaccountable plan.

Reimbursement of nondeductible expenses. You may be reimbursed under your employer's accountable plan for expenses related to that employer's business, some of which are deductible as employee business expenses and some of which are not deductible. The reimbursements you receive for the nondeductible expenses do not meet rule (1) for accountable plans, and they are treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan.

Example. Your employer's plan reimburses you for travel expenses while away from home on business and also for meals when you work late at the office, even though you are not away from home. The part of the arrangement that reimburses you for the nondeductible meals when you work late at the office is treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan.

Tax Tip The employer makes the decision whether to reimburse employees under an accountable plan or a nonaccountable plan. If you are an employee who receives payments under a nonaccountable plan, you cannot convert these amounts to payments under an accountable plan by voluntarily accounting to your employer for the expenses and voluntarily returning excess reimbursements to the employer.


Information courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.