What are Fringe Benefits, and are They Really That “Fringe”?

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When you hear the words “employee benefits,” what first comes to mind?

Most workers think of traditional benefits such as medical and dental insurance, 401k plans or paid time off. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits that companies can offer.

Fringe benefits are defined as any compensation to a worker, in addition to their salary or wages. These can be services, goods, insurance, pension plans, perks or paid vacation.

Despite the colloquial connotation of the word “fringe,” the term “fringe benefits” has a broad definition, legally. Offering medical insurance might seem like standard practice, but it is still technically considered a fringe benefit.

Offering a wide variety of fringe benefits and perks to your employees — more than just your basic medical and dental — can be a great way to attract and recruit top talent. It can also boost morale and productivity in your current employees.

Fringe benefits can be taxable or nontaxable. Nontaxable benefits in particular can really satisfy your employees, as they don’t come with an additional tax burden. The IRS specifically outlines which fringe benefits are nontaxable.

Some popular examples of tax-exempt benefits include:

  • On site athletic facilities
  • Employer-provided cell phones for business use
  • Employer-provided cars for business use
  • Employee discounts
  • Concert and athletic event tickets
  • Meals
  • Education assistance
  • Adoption assistance
  • Wellness programs
  • Insurance coverage
  • Employee assistance program
  • Telemedicine

But some fringe benefits can be taxable, such as:

  • Moving expenses
  • Club memberships (off site)
  • Excessive mileage reimbursement
  • Cash bonuses
  • The market value of the personal use of an employer-provided vehicle or computer
  • Apparel allowance benefit

Essentially, taxable fringe benefits include any benefit or perk that does not comply with the IRS’s rules.

Trending fringe benefits

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the more “fringe” fringe benefits, if you know what I’m saying. 😀 Some benefits are less mainstream than medical and dental insurance, but are starting to grow in popularity. For example, millennials are now asking for different benefits than previous generations.

Wellness Programs

Company wellness programs and challenges give employees the tools, incentives, resources and support to maintain a healthy lifestyle. These program can encourage healthy habits such as improving diet, physical activity and can even offer strategies for stress relief.

Wellness programs can be a relatively cheap way that organizations can satisfy employees, while also working to reduce the overall expense of employee-sponsored medical plans.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

An EAP is a broad, work-based program that offers a collection of various solutions for personal problems that might be affecting an employee in the workplace, and out. These programs can include such services as short-term family or marital counseling, basic legal assistance, adoption assistance and other forms of support.

Employee productivity is very much influenced by their personal lives. An EAP can support employees with health, mental issues, marital relations, financial issues as well as substance abuse.

Implementing an EAP is an easy, cost-effective way to show employees you care about your wellbeing. Assisting your employees in all aspects of life will also ensure that they are bringing positive energy and their best selves to the organization.

Telemedicine benefits

Telemedicine is the remote treatment or diagnosis of a patient via a technological means of communication. This benefit is growing more popular as part of an employee’s health services package.

Telemedicine, or telehealth, has been shown to be more efficient and reduce the cost of healthcare for individuals. Instead of costly trips to the ER, people can use telemedicine benefits and connect to a health professional from their laptop, phone or ipad.

Thanks to reduced travel time and shorter hospital stays, this service can also benefit companies, with employees taking less time off.

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Originally published at blog.backstitch.io.