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Some Penn Hills School District uniforms considered taxable fringe benefits

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Starting this year, maintenance and cafeteria workers in the Penn Hills School District will have to pay taxes on uniforms that the district provides and cleans for them.

At an Aug. 19 finance committee meeting, district Business Director Richard Liberto described recent discussions with James Driver, a federal, state and local government specialist with the Internal Revenue Service.

IRS officials have been conducting audits of federal, state and local authorities.

The IRS said in 2011 that employer-provided uniforms that are able to be worn in everyday situations are considered taxable income for employees.

The decision reversed another ruling from the year before, which was issued in reponse to an individual inquiry about the federal tax code. Liberto said about 100 employees are affected.

Heavy gear that a firefighter wears on the job, which is impractical for anyplace other than at a fire scene, isn't considered taxable. But work clothing, such as the white bib overalls and cap a union painter might be required to don, is taxable as part of an employee's wages, the IRS said.

In Penn Hills, the school district buys and cleans uniforms for maintenance and cafeteria workers who are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

AFSCME Local No. 1314 Staff Representative Harry Rhodes said the union has been informed of the regulations, which Liberto said actually have been on the IRS books since the 1970s.

“According to the IRS, that has always been taxable income,” Liberto said, “since it's considered a fringe benefit. So what happens now is, anytime we purchase those uniforms or clean them, (employees) have to pay taxes on it.”

Rhodes said that while this will be the case moving forward, “they're not going to go back and try to recoup taxes from previous years.”

Costs for protective clothing such as safety shoes, hard hats and work gloves are not taxable.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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