State auditor: WSSU employees may have violated IRS rules

Eleven employees in Winston-Salem State University's facilities management division received about $45,000 in off-the-books benefits through the use of university vehicles to commute between their homes and work, according to an investigation released by the NC Auditor's Office today.

The university justified the use of the maintenance vehicles for commuting on the basis that the facilities employees had been promoted to supervisory positions or had been assigned to respond to repairs at the Chancellor's home. But the report noted that the university paid for gasoline, maintenance, repairs, tires, insurance and license and registration fees for the vehicles.

"According to the university's payroll manager and internal revenue service wage and tax statements, the employees assigned to these vehicles did not reimburse the university for the fringe benefit they received," the report states. "As a result, these employees may have violated IRS regulations and state law."

The Chancellor's home is owned by the university, although it is not located on campus.

Chancellor Donald Reaves told the NC Auditor's Office in a Sept. 16 letter that, in response to recommendation from the agency, the university was ending the practice of permitting employees to commute in university vehicle that day.

Reaves also concurred with a recommendation to require either the repayment of benefits or the amendment of IRS wage and tax statements to reflect the vehicle usage as a fringe benefit of the private use of publicly-owned vehicles.

"We are currently researching the exact usage of university vehicles for private/commuting use using all available records," Reaves wrote. "We will complete the analysis by November 1, 2013 and take action to either gain repayment of benefits or amend wage and tax statements as appropriate by November 22, 2013."

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