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What is Imputed Income?

what is imputed income

While you may not have heard of the term “imputed income,” chances are that you might be receiving it from an employer. Imputed income is essentially non-cash goods or services that you receive from your employer as a form of income. It’s important to know how much you receive because it is taxable, which means it can come with certain tax implications. Here’s an overview of imputed income, including how it works, what’s included, and how to report it during tax time.  

What is Imputed Income?  

Imputed income is any non-cash items or services that you receive from your employer. It is expressed as the cash value of the non-cash perks you receive at work. It’s essentially the IRS’s way of ensuring that all forms of compensation, including non-monetary perks, are considered when calculating an individual’s taxable income. The total amount of imputed income is typically reported on an employee’s W-2 under “Wages, Tips and Other Compensation.”

Examples of Imputed Income

Here are the more common examples of perks or “fringe benefits.”

Company Vehicles

If you use a company car for work, this can be considered imputed income. However, only your personal use of the car is taxed as a fringe benefit. The amount taxed will depend on the fair market value of the car and the total miles driven for personal use compared to total miles driven that year. If you use a company car for personal use, you should actively log mileage and the purpose of each trip.   

Gym Memberships

Some companies give their employees free gym memberships to encourage wellness. This fringe benefit should be reported as income during tax time. This is true even if the gym membership is paid for through your employer-sponsored health insurance provider. If the gym is at the same location of the work property and is not only available to employees, then it is excluded from imputed income.   

Education Assistance

Some employers reimburse employees for higher education tuition, as long as the program of study is related to their area of work. If the amount granted to the employee exceeds $5,250, the excess will be considered taxable imputed income.  

Employer-Provided Housing

The fair market value of housing provided by an employer to an employee is typically considered imputed income, unless specific conditions apply. This also includes housing allowances. To qualify for an exclusion, the housing must be on business premises, be furnished, and be a condition of employment. An example of this type of scenario is if a construction worker was completing a job in a remote area that would make daily commuting impractical. There is more to this topic so be sure to consult a tax professional if you receive this type of fringe benefit for clarification. 

Group Term Life Insurance

When an employer pays for life insurance coverage exceeding $50,000 for an employee, the portion exceeding the limit is considered imputed income. 

Dependent Care Assistance

Employer-provided dependent care assistance exceeding $5,000 per year may be considered imputed income and subject to taxation. 

Moving Expense Reimbursement

Reimbursements for moving expenses are considered imputed income from 2018 through 2025. After 2025, a portion may become excluded. 

Adoption Assistance

Employer-provided adoption assistance exceeding $16,810 for 2024 may be considered imputed income and subject to taxation. 

Imputed Income Exclusions  

Small, infrequent benefits provided by an employer, such as occasional snacks or holiday gifts, are often excluded from income calculations. Additionally, things like company cell phones, meals, and some employment discounts are excluded. Employer contributions to qualified retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs), are generally excluded

Reporting Imputed Income  

Your employer should withhold taxes on your imputed income and then report it on your W-2. Review this information carefully for accuracy. If your employer does not, they are still responsible for reporting the income. This means you are responsible for paying the tax on the income at tax time. Individuals must report this income on their tax return (Form 1040) in the appropriate sections. Refer to IRS instructions or seek professional assistance if needed. If you’re unsure about whether you currently receive any form of imputed income, you should seek help from a knowledgeable tax preparer. Optima Tax Relief has over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with tough tax situations.  

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