There’ a change coming for county employees who carry cell phones on the job. No longer will those phones be supplied by the county.

Instead, employees will receive a stipend, based on usage for county business, for the use of their personal phones.

“This change is not so much a good thing for the county government, but the county employee,” commissioner Chip Westfall said. “The IRS is auditing employees who have government cell phones, looking at personal calls they are making and considering that a benefit, then taxing them for that benefit.”

By going to a stipend or reimbursement, it takes the burden of call tracking off of employees.

According to the IRS, county employees who were carrying county-provided phones should have been logging all personal calls made on those phones — and reporting them as a benefit on income taxes.

“It’s hard to expect them to track all of their calls,” county Administrator Craig Simons said. “That led to people who carried two phones with them — a personal phone and a county phone. They were tired of carrying two phones.”

Simons said the county departments that will most be affected by the new policy will be the sheriff’s department, road and bridge, and the solid waste department.

The county still will have a few cellular phones after the switch is made, mainly for emergency communications and administrative use.

Simons did not say if the county will save money with the change, but he did say that was not a motivating factor for the county to make the change.

“It’s a change to comply with federal laws of taxation,” Simons said. “We want people who need phones to have them, but not to pay for those who don’t really need them. We will watch it closely.”

Westfall said the county chose to go with reimbursement after talking with other counties and businesses.

Based on usage for county business, employees will receive a monthly reimbursement of either $25 or $50.

The reimbursement will show up as taxable income when employees get their tax statements.

“The IRS likes that,” Simons said.

The county will phase in the program as current contracts with cell phone providers expire.

“At first, we thought we could do a cold date, but when we talked with department heads, we found that there were different dates on contracts,” Westfall said. “Some of those carry a penalty for quitting early, and we don’t want to pay that.”