October 30, 2020

How Are Big 4 Firms Stacking Up on Work-From-Home Benefits?

Unless you were one of the few who had the foresight to deck out your crib in multiple monitors just before SHTF this past spring, you’ve probably needed to improve your WFH set up just a bit in the months since. And because a large portion of this website’s entire purpose is serving as Steve Harvey to the eternal beauty contest that is comparing Big 4 firms to themselves, we figured we’d take a quick dive and compare firm benefits in one place.

Let’s get down to brass tacks or, in this case, particleboard. It seems some firms have been more generous than others when it comes to outfitting their employees’ work-from-home spaces. Deloitte is the clear winner of this round, handing out a few extra bucks for desks. EY seems to be second, expanding its existing employee wellness fund to allow office equipment purchases such as ergonomic chairs and standing desks (we hear those are life-changing).

Mind you these are the corona-related work-from-home reimbursements we’re aware of, different offices may have different policies and new hires may be able to snag additional benefits upon onboarding.

  • PwC – no specific home office equipment reimbursement policy but can request a monitor from the firm
  • KPMG – 20% discount on some office essentials through an office equipment site
  • EY – can use employee wellness fund for a 75% reimbursement up to $500 on office equipment, $175 monitor budget
  • Deloitte – $300 subsidy for necessary work from home equipment, though some offices are reporting an allowance of $500

As far as we know, none of the big firms are providing any meal reimbursements for staff working from home as a rule. Although I’m sure everyone around here would love to say firms are just cheaping out on meals this year and blaming the Rona, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

In March, KPMG covered the issue of meal reimbursement in its Compensation and benefits concerns in uncertain times—telecommuting and other items report:

During times of business-as-usual, some employers provide office premises meals to their employees that are fully or partially excludable from the employees’ income. The meals may be excludable from income as a result of, for example, geographical isolation of the office, employees required to be on call during the workday, or during a busy season of the employer’s business that requires teams to work extended hours at the office. In addition, the rules around income exclusion for employer-operated eating facilities are very specific and typically require being on the employer premises. Generally, whether employer-provided meals may be excluded from employee income is a fact-specific analysis, unique to each employer and business.

When employees are no longer working together in the office, the analysis around whether the cost of meals can be excluded from employee income necessarily takes a different shape. Although an argument could potentially be made that the employer business premises have shifted to the individual’s home, the same considerations that resulted in the meals being excludible from income may no longer apply, and the meals may become taxable. For example, meals consumed during business meetings among a group of employees may have been excludible from employee income as a de minimis fringe benefit for occasional group meals. With meetings taking place instead online or over the phone—although employees may still sit down for a meal in conjunction with the meeting—it may not be considered a group meal excludable from income.

The report goes on to say that “these changes may affect working individuals who have grown accustomed to having certain meals provided and now have to provide those meals on their own,” which feels like some veiled insult that implies y’all are incapable of feeding yourselves.

Your inability to prepare a meal aside, don’t expect firms to cover those exorbitant Uber Eats bills anytime soon. Not unless the tax rules change anytime soon, that is.

Did anyone consider rolling their office chair out when they were sent home in March?

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11 Comments

  1. As a PwC employee we did just get told we’d get a $250 WFH payment net of tax. As for ordering a monitor, me and my fellow squad leaders (2nd & 3rd years) were specifically told the firm was still on an expense freeze and that none of the 1st years would be given an exception and be able to get monitors, mice, keyboards or phones. Really sucked having to tell them they’d have to buy their own peripherals. Basically impossible to only use one screen.

  2. For Deloitte, the $300 was for US based audit only. Then they gave $500 to everyone as a crisis relief payment. We can also use the well-being subsidy for ergonomic desks, chairs, and accessories.

  3. At EisnerAmper we were given a monitor the day we left the office to work from home, recently they improved that by giving everyone a $250 reimbursement for office supplies and equipment. We also received a headset, mouse and keyboard outside of the $250. We continue our $50 a month cell phone reimbursement as well. I am very proud of the way our firm has handled all this.

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