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Payroll odds and ends: Uniforms and third-party signatures

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The IRS is a prodigious publisher. Here are digests of two Legal Memoranda. Note: Legal Memoranda are intended as private advice from the IRS to the requesting party. They may be used for informational purposes only; they may not be used or cited as precedent.

1.  Casual clothing counts as uniforms. Uniforms for nurses, police officers and firefighters, for example, may be provided to them or reimbursed as a tax-free working condition fringe benefit. Reason: They’re required for business and they’re distinctive clothing that can’t be worn on the street. Twist: The definition of uniforms has become very flexible; corporate logo items, which are worn on the street, are common. Which begs the question: What about clothes that aren’t so distinctive—polo shirts and baseball caps with company logos—can they also count as uniforms?

The IRS answered “Yes” to an inquiry made by a municipality that provided firefighters with polo shirts, baseball caps and similar casual clothing that contained insignia. Firefighters were required to wear this apparel during their working hours and were prohibited from wearing this apparel when they weren’t working. IRS: Ordinary items of clothing count as uniforms if employees must wear them during working hours and can’t wear them during off-duty hours. Rationale: Municipalities have an important interest in ensuring that the public can readily identify firefighters and police officers. (TEGE Memo, 6-15-15)

Payroll practice tip

Employees in all sorts of businesses wear distinctively colored casual shirts or shirts with their employers’ logos. Can the IRS’ rationale apply in those situations? Maybe, if you have a rule that prohibits employees from wearing these items when they’re off duty and you have a substantial interest to protect. Protecting the company’s reputation, for example, may count as a substantial interest. In other words, you don’t want employees embarrassing the company by doing stupid things when they’re wearing your apparel.

2.  No third-party signatures on Form 2848. You don’t need to be an attorney to sign Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, but you can’t sign the form on someone else’s behalf. IRS: Part 1 of Form 2848 doesn’t authorize a representative to substitute or add representatives.This form should be rejected as to the individual who didn’t personally sign it. (ILM 201544024, 9-16-15).

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