Tech Tools FAQ
General Policy Questions
- Why does the university have a policy on the employee use of portable electronic resources?
Cell phones and other portable electronic resources (or "tech tools") are necessary for certain university employees to perform their business responsibilities. The policy provides units with the flexibility to provide cell phones and other portable electronic resources to employees when there is a legitimate business need, while complying with current tax rules and regulations. Following the policy minimizes tax risks to employees, and provides financial stewardship for the institution in an environment where expenses are increasing as new tech tools are introduced.
- Can units implement a more restrictive policy?
Yes. The policy represents minimum requirements and units can choose to establish more restrictive procedures, but should balance any efforts to economize against additional administrative burden on eligible faculty and staff.
- What constitutes a portable electronic resource?
This policy covers resources that feature wired and wireless telecommunication and data services, including cell phones, portable computers (e.g., laptops and tablets) and similar devices. Please note that these are examples and do not represent a complete list of tools covered by this policy. Desktop computers, two-way radios, and pagers are not affected by this policy.
- What are the options for providing a portable electronic device to an employee?
- Payroll Stipend
Under this option, units may provide a Payroll Stipend to employees who have a demonstrable need for cellular phones and other telecommunications devices. The authorized amount of the Payroll Stipend, which is intended to cover a portion of the service and hardware costs, is a maximum of $600 per fiscal year. This equates to $50 per monthly pay period or $23.07 per biweekly pay period ($22.22 per biweekly pay period for fiscal year 2023). Units must ensure that the total annual stipend per employee does not exceed $600 per fiscal year.
Under this option, units provide cellular phones and other telecommunications devices directly to their employees and pay the monthly service bill. This model can be used when the tool is used for business purposes and/or there is a need for regulatory data protection (e.g., NCAA regulations).
This option should always be used when providing laptops, tablets, and similar devices. The stipend model should never be used for these devices.
- Payroll Stipend
- Does the policy apply when units provide laptops to faculty and staff as their standard and primary machine?
No. The policy does not apply when faculty or staff members receive a laptop as their standard and primary machine.
- Does the policy apply when there is no data plan associated with the device?
No. The policy does not apply when a faculty or staff member receives a device without a data plan.
- Are temporary employees eligible for a payroll stipend for cell phone usage?
Yes.Temporary employees (appointed through the university) may be eligible for a payroll stipend if the cell phone is used for university business. The temporary employee must meet the same requirements as described in the policy for regular employees.
- Is there a verification requirement to receive a stipend or university-provided device?
It is recommended, but not required, that units implement a verification process. Sample verification forms are available at finance.umich.edu/techtoolpolicy.
Are there any exceptions to the policy?
Policy exceptions must be approved by:
- Ann Arbor: Executive Officers, Deans, Associate Deans, Associate Vice Presidents, or Executive Director of University Audits
- Dearborn: Chancellor, Vice Chancellors, Deans, or Associate Deans.
- Flint: Chancellor, Vice Chancellors, Deans, or Associate Deans.
- Hospitals and Health Centers: EVPMA, UMHS CFO, or Executive Directors.
Exceptions must only be made in those instances where a legitimate business rationale exists. Units must retain documentation for each exception that is granted.
Payroll Stipend Option
Note: The stipend method should not be used to provide laptops, tablets, and other similar devices to employees. This type of electronic resource should be provided directly to the employee when a specific job responsibility requires a university-provided resource and the tool will be used for business.
- What is the amount of the stipend?
The maximum authorized stipend under the policy is $50 per monthly pay period or $23.07 per biweekly pay period. Units must ensure that the total annual stipend per employee does not exceed $600 per fiscal year. Note: In fiscal year 2023 there are 27 biweekly pay periods instead of 26. Units must adjust biweekly stipends for 2023 to a maximum of $22.22 per pay period for the entire fiscal year so as to not exceed the maximum annual stipend of $600.
- How will employees receive their stipends?
Stipends should be processed by the unit as Additional Pay transactions in M-pathways and added to employee pay.
- Is the stipend taxable?
No. The IRS allows employers to provide electronic resources to their employees tax-free, as long as the employees can demonstrate that their use is for business purposes.
- If an exception to exceed the current payroll stipend amount is approved, is the additional amount taxable?
No, stipend amounts exceeding $50 per monthly pay period or $23.07 per biweekly pay period with a business purpose are not taxable. Units must retain documentation of all approved exceptions.
- How can employees purchase devices under the stipend model?
Employees are responsible for purchasing the cell phone and related service contract with their personal funds. All university employees are eligible for Mcard discounts on communication devices for the carriers listed at: /treasury/mcard/discounts
- Can laptops and tablets be reimbursed under the stipend model?
No. Laptops, tablets, and similar devices are provided by the unit directly to an employee when a specific job responsibility requires a university-provided resource.
- Can a Sponsored Project/Grant (P/G - Funds 20000 & 25000) be used for a payroll stipend?
Federal awards (Fund 20000) do not allow the payment of a payroll stipend for Tech Tools. For Non-federal awards (Fund 25000) the expense must be included in the sponsor approved budget. In cases where it is not in the approved budget, the expense will not be allowable unless approved in writing by the sponsor.
- Are employees eligible for reimbursement for occasional long-distance (particularly international) business calls that exceed the maximum payroll stipend amount?
Reimbursement for non-recurring cell phone service should be considered on an exception basis and must be approved by the appropriate individual(s) identified in Section III (Policy Exceptions) of the Tech Tool SPG. Reimbursement to employees will be made through the university’s travel and expense management system (Concur). The expense report must include:
- A copy of the itemized phone bill with business calls identified.
- A comment from the approver explaining the business reason for the exception.
- The proper authority approving the exception must either approve the report in Concur, or a copy of an email message with their approval must be attached to the report as support documentation.
- Can a faculty or staff member receive more than one device at the same time?
Yes, but the requirements of the policy must be followed for each device individually. When considering the use of multiple tech tools by one employee, units are encouraged to be good stewards of the university’s financial resources.
University-Provided Resource Option
- What are the unit's responsibilities in the university-provided resource model?
The unit must follow university procurement procedures to purchase the resources.
- What are the employee’s responsibilities in the university-provided resource model?
The employee must reimburse the university for any personal usage that results in additional charges. The resource must be returned to the unit when no longer needed by the employee, or when the employee leaves the unit or employment ends.
How does my unit purchase a university-provided resource?
Purchases must be made through a UM-contracted supplier using a shortcode:
Units should follow their normal business process to obtain devices from these suppliers, either through their dedicated IT support unit, or directly with the strategic supplier. Locate specific ordering instructions by clicking the supplier links above, or by searching by supplier name at: procurement.umich.edu/buying/find-products-services
For ordering questions or assistance, contact Technology Procurement by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Procurement Solutions Team at (734) 764-8212, option 2.
- Why must units use a vendor that has a contract with the university when providing the tools directly to employees?
Contracts offer units the opportunity to save the university money through carefully negotiated agreements with vendors that provide aggressive pricing on a wide variety of quality products and services in return for a commitment from the university to meet specific volume targets. The rights of the university and its employees are also protected under the terms of the contract.
- Can I use a P-Card or be reimbursed when paying for a tech tool and the related service?
Fees for these devices and their related services should not be charged to university P-Cards. Reimbursement for non-recurring expenses incurred by employees may be considered on an exception basis. The university does not allow the use of the P-Card to pay for monthly service fees or the purchase of technology devices, including purchases made at the Computer Showcase.
- I provide on-call technical support to my unit during non-business hours, but sometimes do not receive any calls during those times. Does my university-provided cell phone meet the business use requirement in this situation?
Yes. Staff members responsible for on-call duties are "using" the device, whether or not an actual call is fielded during the on-call time period. Usage is not tied solely to the logging of actual minutes in this situation.
- Who can I contact to answer questions or for more information?
You can email email@example.com or call (734) 764-8212, option 2.