Last year, Cascade County in Montana looked over the collective phone bills of its employees. The county spent $61,000 on a plan that reimbursed county employees for business use of their personal cell phones. The county’s Finance Director had a brilliant idea: have the county issue cell phones to employees and pay one bill monthly. It is estimated that the new plan will cut cell phone expenditures nearly in half.
This brings up an interesting point in regards to business use of cell phones. In the corporate setting, cell phone use is ideally restricted to business only when a phone is issued. In the world of freelance or self-employment, the business owner’s cell phone often has double duty: personal and business phone calls go on the same bill. However, when tax time comes, the IRS demands that only the portion of phone calls used for business purposes be written off.
Is there a better way to record cell phone usage for tax or business purposes?
As land lines go out of style, it is clear that cellular is the way of the future. Most businesses retain land lines to provide continuity of customer service. However, the case of Cascade County, Montana is fascinating. Montana is large and flat. Many of the county’s employees work outdoors, and need cell phones in order to communicate with colleagues.
Once county cell phones are issued, how does the county keep tabs on individual cell phone usage? It’s easy to do: every mobile provider sends an itemized bill with a list of calls made. Previously, it has been relatively easy to separate business from pleasure in the realm of phone communication: one landline was for work, the other line at home is for personal use. But those lines are blurred constantly—especially as texting and email are sent to personal mobile phones.
For business, billing, and tax purposes, some genius would become rich if they designed an easy way for corporations and entrepreneurs to record cell phone usage and easily organize it to separate personal from business calls. Especially in the arena of big business, reimbursements and tax write-offs would be simplified a great deal. As technology moves forward at breakneck speed, new ways to organize and classify the relatively new technology of cell phone use are necessary. Record-keeping a user’s phone calls, especially on a mobile platform, is easy. Organizing those call records is not. The programmer that creates a sort of “Quickbooks,” a database for businesses to record and organize cell phone use, will one day make somebody very, very rich.