Cell Phone Use Policies
This page provides information and resources on usage policies for cell phones and smart phones for local government staff and elected officials in Washington State, including sample policies.
There are two primary patterns for allowing government employees to use cell phones for agency-related business. (For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to cell phones and smart phones collectively as “cell phones.”)
- The agency can purchase cell phones and provide them to their employees for business-related use, in which case the agency should adopt a cell phone usage policy.
- Employees can use their own cell phone for business-related purposes and request reimbursement for business-related use, in which case it is necessary to develop an appropriate policy regarding reimbursement.
Both options are considered non-taxable fringe benefits and no tax-related recordkeeping is required. See IR 2011-93, issued by the Internal Revenue Service September 14, 2011.
Below are some selected examples of cell phone use policies adopted by local governments in Washington.
- Chewelah Cell Phone Policy (2022) – City Administrator purchases phones and establishes provider plans; only de minimis personal use of city-owned phones allowed
- Grandview Cellular Telephone Use Policy (2022) – Includes reference to the fact that public records act may apply to some texts and voicemails
- Prosser Cell Phone Allowance (2022) – Provides $45 monthly allowance if approved by mayor or city administrator
- Spokane City and Personally-Owned Communication Devices (Including Cell Phones) (2017) – Strongly discourages the use of personal devices for city business. It also extends the policy to cover social media and email
- White Salmon Cell Phone Use Policy (2017) – Detailed policy that covers records considerations, allowed use, and stipends for use of personal cell phones
- Clallam County Cellular Telephones/Smartphones Policy (2011) – Provides monthly stipend for use of personal cell phones and smart phones ($10 or $40), detailed procedures for reimbursement, and a provision on shared phones
- Mason County Cellular Telephone Policy (2023) – Clear policy on county-issued cell phones
For additional guidance in developing policies for the use of cell phones by government employees and officials, see the following resources: