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Kevin O'Flaherty

An employer must reimburse their employee for personal cell phone usage. To get reimbursed for cell phone use in Illinois, employees must ensure that the use of their personal cell phone was directed or approved by their employer, comply with the company's reimbursement policy, and submit their expenses within 30 days of incurring them. Not all usage is covered; only necessary work-related usage that adheres to the employer’s policy qualifies for reimbursement, and the amount reimbursed can vary, typically reflecting a "reasonable percentage" of the bill based on work-related data usage.

Can You be Reimbursed for Cell Phone Use?

In 2019, Illinois passed new law regarding reimbursement by employers. This new law requires all employers to reimburse their employees for any expenses incurred within the scope of their employment.  This can include several expenses, including personal cell phones.  The use of cell phones for work is increasingly popular as employees remain in contact beyond the office or even work remotely.  Employees may also receive calls from their employer or co-workers relating to work matters. This can run on your paid data plan, which adds another element to the expense that may be reimbursable.  

There are some requirements to be aware, however:

  • The use of the personal cell phone must be directed or approved by the employer.  An employee may not decide on their own to use a personal cell phone without informing their employer and then demand reimbursement.
  • The employee must remain in agreement with the company’s individual reimbursement policy.  The reimbursement policy may qualify the employee for reimbursement that is less than they would be entitled to if the employer did not have a policy.

Under the new law, your employer must reimburse you for use, even if the cost is negligent to you.  For example, if you have an unlimited data or high-end cell phone plan, work-related data usage will not directly affect your bill.  However, an employer is still required to reimburse for that data.  The Illinois law is not specific on what this reimbursement will look like, but if other states serve as an indication, you will likely be entitled to a “reasonable percentage” of your bill in relation to the amount of data used regarding your work.  What exactly this “reasonable percentage” will be, or if Illinois will even use the percentage method at all, is still to be determined in the coming months as cases regarding the new reimbursement law are heard by Illinois courts.  Keep an eye on our website for any new events or changes regarding this law.

For more on the new employment laws in general, see our article “Changes to Illinois Employment Laws for 2019

Key Takeaways

  • Illinois mandates employer reimbursement for job-related expenses, including necessary work-related personal cell phone use.
  • Employees must follow the employer's policy, document work calls, and submit expenses timely for cell phone reimbursement.
  • Work cell phone reimbursements aren't taxable, but require clear records to separate work from personal use per IRS rules.

How to be Reimbursed for your Cell Phone

If you use your personal cell phone for work-related tasks, including calls, messages and other processes, you are entitled to reimbursement through Illinois’ new employment law in 2019.  To begin this process, you must first review that you meet the requirements:

  • As explained above, you must have been directed or approved for the use by your employer.  
  • Check your company’s reimbursement policy.  This will help you ensure that you are in agreement with the policy and also may impact the amount you are reimbursed for.
  • File your expense within 30 days of incurring it.  If this is your cell phone’s purchase, you must file within 30 days the date on the receipt.  If you are fling regarding your phone or data bill, you must file within 30 days of receiving your bill.  

Tips for Negotiating Reimbursement Policies

Now that you are well-versed in the intricacies of reimbursement laws and policies, the final piece of the puzzle is effectively negotiating your reimbursement. Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Start by clearly explaining how personal cell phone use enhances your work performance and productivity.
  2. Propose a reasonable reimbursement model, such as a monthly allowance.
  3. Recommend a specific stipend amount based on industry standards and your level of work-related use.

Presenting a clear breakdown of work-related cell phone expenses and discussing the necessity of covering a reasonable percentage of the cell phone bill can help justify your requested reimbursement. Moreover, highlighting the benefits of cell phone reimbursement for reducing employee turnover, enhancing job satisfaction, and ensuring tax compliance can strengthen your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get reimbursed for using my personal phone for work?

Certainly, if the reimbursement for utilizing your own cell phone for business purposes is included in your normal salary or compensation and adheres to IRS regulations regarding tax-exempt compensations for legitimate cell phone coverage, you are entitled to be compensated.

Is personal cell phone reimbursement taxable?

According to the IRS, reimbursements for personal cell phone usage that is work related are not subject to taxes.

What is the average cell phone reimbursement amount?

The average cell phone reimbursement amount is between $30 and $50 per month, according to a 2022 study by Samsung and Oxford Economics.

Should your employer pay for your cell phone?

Indeed, in states like California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and also within the District of Columbia, employers are obligated to compensate you for business-related expenditures which encompass the use of your cell phone.

What is the reimbursement law in Illinois?

Under the amended IWPCA in Illinois, the expense reimbursement statute requires that employers reimburse their employees for any necessary expenses they have incurred as part of fulfilling their job duties and while providing services to the employer.

This law is new and developing.  The process may change as it solidifies and more cases are heard.  As the various requirements are defined more specifically, the law may develop as well.  You may want to consult with a business attorney if you have any specific questions on what you are entitled to or what the process looks like.  

If you need a business attorney, or have any other legal needs, O’Flaherty Law is here to help. To schedule a free consultation or make an appointment with an attorney, you can reach out to us via phone call at 630-324-6666, email us at, or check out our website, Let us know how we can make your legal experience better at O’Flaherty Law.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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