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Pharma Industry: Taxable Allowance vs. Vehicle Reimbursements



Public health is more complex than ever. Pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution procedures constantly evolve to account for market dynamics and the populace’s needs. 

Accordingly, industry experts must go above and beyond in their search for ways to streamline operations. Regarding distribution, moving from taxable allowances to tax-free vehicle reimbursements is a convenient and strategic transition that instills financial prudence and efficiency among drivers responsible for transporting shipments of vital medical products. In this blog, we look into the methods available for restructuring these reimbursement strategies and how making this switch ensures the industry’s long-term prosperity and consistent innovations in public health.

Understanding Tax-Free Vehicle Reimbursements

Reimbursement Programs Types

  • Fixed and Variable Rate (FAVR): This approach considers fixed and variable costs, providing a comprehensive framework for employees to navigate transportation expenses. By factoring in elements such as insurance, depreciation, fuel, and maintenance, the FAVR program ensures an accurate reimbursement structure tailored to the unique needs of each individual. In short, FAVR mitigates the burden placed on employees and fosters a sense of financial stability within the organization using the program.
  • Accountable Allowance: Also known as a Tax-Free Car Allowance, under this system, employees receive a predetermined, fixed sum for transportation expenses, which they must substantiate with relevant documentation. Accountable Allowances safeguard against misuse and allow employees to tailor their reimbursements to travel patterns, all within the parameters established by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) within document 463.
  • Cents per Mile (CPM): Embracing simplicity and ease of implementation, the Cents per Mile approach streamlines reimbursement by assigning a set monetary value per mile traveled, typically in alignment with the guidelines set by the IRS. With minimal paperwork and documentation, CPM simplifies the administrative burden for employees and employers; its straightforward nature leaves no room for ambiguity or inequity.

Benefits of Tax-Free Vehicle Reimbursement Programs

  • Cost savings for employees and employers: Both employees and employers reap substantial cost savings by adopting vehicle reimbursement programs. Employees’ take-home pay surges by eliminating tax liabilities. Simultaneously, employers enjoy reduced tax burdens, freeing resources to invest in crucial areas such as research and development.
  • Reduced administrative burden: Beyond the fiscal advantages, implementing tax-free vehicle reimbursement programs reduces administrative complexities. Such programs minimize paperwork by replacing the arduous task of tracking and documenting expenses with streamlined methodologies.
  • Enhanced employee satisfaction and retention: Tax-free vehicle reimbursement programs nurture a culture of employee satisfaction and retention. Companies are committed to their workforce’s well-being and financial prosperity by providing fair reimbursement structures. This fosters loyalty, morale, and a sense of belonging, creating an environment that attracts and retains top talent – a crucial ingredient in propelling the pharmaceutical industry forward.

Comparing Different Tax-Free Vehicle Reimbursement Programs

Fixed and Variable Rate 

  • Overview: There are three main rules to adhere to with a FAVR program. Following them guarantees a company remains IRS compliant:
    • Vehicle cost compliance: When new, the driver’s vehicle must have cost at least 90% of the cost of their FAVR Vehicle Profile. 
    • Vehicle age compliance: The driver’s vehicle must not be older than the retention cycle of their FAVR Vehicle Profile. 
    • The 5,000 mile rule: The driver must drive at least 5,000 business miles annually. 
  • The fairness of FAVR: Unlike a one-size-fits-all approach, FAVR recognizes the diverse circumstances of employees by taking into account location and mileage variations. Reimbursement rates are adjusted based on factors such as the employee’s geographic area, where vehicle ownership and operation costs (including fuel price) can differ significantly. Employees in urban areas with higher insurance premiums and maintenance fees may receive a higher reimbursement rate than those in rural areas. This location-based customization ensures that employees are reimbursed in a manner that aligns with the realities of their specific operating environment.
  • Tracking and documentation requirements: Employees must diligently track and document their transportation-related expenses to maintain compliance with the accountable allowance program. This includes retaining mileage logs, or receipts for fuel purchases, maintenance services, and any other eligible costs incurred during business travel. By providing these supporting documents, employees can quickly fulfill their obligations and contribute to the overall transparency and accountability of the reimbursement process. Outsourced FAVR programs typically use mileage tracking software to automate this process, meaning reimbursement admin does not impact employee or employer workloads. 

Car Allowances

  • Overview: The allure of flat-rate car allowances lies in their simplicity, as they offer employees a fixed amount to cover their driving business expenses. However, the taxation intricacies of allowances demand careful consideration, and their alignment with actual employee expenditures is vital. In this regard, getting outsourced assistance with your car allowance can be crucial. 

One effective method to substantiate the fixed rate allowance is utilizing the 463 accountable allowance methodology, aptly termed the Tax-Free Car Allowance program. The crux of this approach lies in maintaining accurate mileage logs, which enables employers to determine the reimbursement amount by dividing it by the total number of miles driven in a given month. For instance, if employees are granted $600 and drive 6,000 miles, their reimbursement rate would be 10¢ per mile. This calculated rate is then compared to the prevailing IRS mileage rate to determine taxability.

If the resulting rate from the accountable allowance methodology falls below the IRS rate (e.g., 65.5¢ per mile), the allowance remains tax-free. However, if the speed exceeds the IRS threshold, only the difference, known as the delta, is subject to taxation. For instance, if an employee drove only 600 miles, receiving effectively $1 per mile, the portion that exceeds the IRS mileage (the “delta”) rate would be taxed. On the other hand, the sum they received while still complying with or staying under the IRS mileage rate remains tax-free.

  • Tracking and documentation requirements: Streamlining expense tracking and reimbursement processes is a triumphant victory for any organization. Accountable allowances simplify the administrative burden significantly, as they eliminate the need for meticulous mileage logging and expense reports. 

Cents per Mile

  • Simplicity and ease of implementation: CPM offers a hassle-free solution for employers and employees. The reimbursement process becomes more efficient with minimal administrative requirements, such as tracking receipts or calculating individual expenses. Employers can easily calculate reimbursements by multiplying the business miles traveled by the predetermined cents per mile rate. This simplicity saves time and resources, allowing both parties to focus on their core responsibilities.
  • Limitations and potential tax implications: While the Cents per Mile method provides simplicity, it is essential to consider possible limitations and tax implications. The fixed rate per mile may not accurately reflect employees’ expenses, especially if their vehicles have higher operating costs – this is especially true of large trucks used for shipping products long distances. 

The Advantages of FAVR Over Other Programs

  • Precise and location-specific calculations: FAVR sets itself apart by enabling accurate and location-specific calculations. Unlike the Cents per Mile program, which provides a fixed amount regardless of geographic cost variations, FAVR allows for adjustments based on location. 
  • Flexibility: The FAVR program offers flexibility that surpasses other reimbursement methods. It recognizes that fuel costs and insurance rates can vary significantly based on location and individual circumstances. Employees no longer need to bear the burden of fluctuating fuel prices or insurance premiums as FAVR adjusts the reimbursement amounts accordingly.
  • Minimizing tax waste: By adopting the FAVR program, companies can reduce tax waste and maximize driver allowances. FAVR is the only program where you can reimburse over this IRS rate, tax-free. Through accurate and location-specific calculations, FAVR ensures that reimbursements align with actual expenses, reducing the risk of overpayment or underpayment. Employees receive fair reimbursements, while employers avoid unnecessary tax liabilities. Additionally, FAVR enables companies to optimize driver allowances while adhering to tax regulations, balancing cost control and employee satisfaction.

The Pitfalls of Taxable Allowances and Tax Waste

While taxable allowances have been a conventional reimbursement method, their inherent pitfalls have become increasingly apparent, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. Taxable allowances are the traditional means of reimbursing employees for their transportation expenses, such that the reimbursement amount is subjected to income tax deductions. Employees receive a fixed allowance for their taxable income, meaning that the reimbursement is subject to federal, state, and local taxes, reducing their overall take-home pay.

Negative Consequences of Taxable Allowances for Drivers

  • High tax deductions: One of the primary drawbacks of taxable allowances is the high tax deductions that employees face. The reimbursement amount is included in their taxable income, which leads to higher tax liabilities. As a result, a significant portion of the reimbursement is effectively deducted through taxes, reducing the financial benefits that drivers receive.
  • Reduced take-home pay: Due to the higher tax deductions associated with taxable allowances, employees experience a reduction in their take-home income. This decrease in earnings can substantially impact their financial well-being, as they receive a smaller portion of the reimbursement amount they are entitled to. Such reductions in take-home pay can create financial strains and limit the ability of employees to manage their expenses effectively.
  • Dissatisfaction and demotivation: The negative consequences of taxable allowances can also lead to dissatisfaction and demotivation among drivers. Employees may feel undervalued and unappreciated when they realize that a significant portion of their reimbursement is deducted through taxes. This dissatisfaction can negatively impact their morale and overall job performance, potentially leading to reduced productivity and increased turnover rates.

The Financial Impact of Tax Waste on Drivers' Allowances

  • Estimating the approximate 30% waste: Tax waste represents the portion of employees’ allowances lost due to taxes. On average, taxable allowances can result in approximately 30% of the reimbursement being wasted due to tax deductions. This waste stems from the fact that drivers are reimbursed based on their expenses, but a significant portion is lost through income and payroll taxation, leaving employees with less financial upside than intended.
  • Missed opportunities for cost savings and investments: The financial impact of tax waste extends beyond the direct reduction in drivers’ allowances. It also represents missed opportunities for cost savings and investments. When a substantial portion of the reimbursement is lost through taxes, employees need more resources to cover their transportation expenses effectively. This limits their ability to save for future needs, invest in professional development, or allocate funds toward crucial areas such as vehicle maintenance and improvements.


Pharmaceutical companies must recognize the benefits of transitioning to tax-free vehicle reimbursement programs and actively embrace this switch; the overall benefits extend beyond individual organizations, positively impacting the industry. Embracing tax-free vehicle reimbursement programs improves employees’ financial well-being and contributes to a thriving and harmonious work environment. FAVR provides comprehensive coverage of expenses, precise location-specific calculations, flexibility in accounting for variables, simplified administration, and compliance requirements while minimizing tax waste and maximizing driver allowances. Furthermore, optimizing reimbursement strategies fuels productivity, innovation, and talent retention, bolstering the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to address emerging challenges and deliver life-saving medications to patients worldwide.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog post is legal, accounting, or insurance advice. Consult your lawyer, accountant, or insurance agent, and do not rely on the information contained herein for any business or personal financial or legal decision-making. While we strive to be as reliable as possible, we are neither lawyers nor accountants or agents. For several citations of IRS publications on which we base our blog content ideas, please always consult this article: For Cardata’s terms of service, go here:

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