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Tax Ruling on Police Vehicles Threatens Law Enforcement Effectiveness

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 52 Issue: 4 Dated: (April 1985) Pages: 14-19,21-23
Date Published
9 pages
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) argues that the new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules taxing employees who have personal use of employer cars will decrease levels of police protection in rural, suburban, and metropolitan areas.
The only police protection in many rural areas is provided by an individual officer working out of his or her home and vehicle. Many suburbs and small towns use the take-home car program to deter crime and to enable off-duty officers to respond quickly to emergencies. Metropolitan departments often assign cars to command officials, so they can respond directly to emergencies, as well as to undercover officers. Restrictions and severe penalties for the improper use of government vehicles obviate the IRS contention that employees derive personal benefits from the use of employer cars and therefore should be taxed. The current IRS rules are temporary regulations and therefore were not subjected to public comment. They state that officers traveling to and from work in the patrol car for noncompensatory business purposes will be charged $3.00 a day as income. For officers allowed to use vehicles off-duty, the IRS has created a table of annual lease values to be multiplied by the percentage of time the car is used for personal purposes. To simplify matters in cases where employees spend most of the day in the vehicle, the employer can treat 70 percent of the use as business and 30 percent as personal. It is particularly difficult to separate police business from personal use, since officers often must maintain radio contact and respond to calls whenever they are in the car. The IACP is alerting law enforcement agencies to the rules, submitting testimony to Congress, and meeting with Reagan administration officials. Comments from police agencies regarding the IRS rules and a survey of State police take-home car programs conclude the article.