For decades, employers and employees have been effectively precluded from using two of the handiest special valuation rules—the fleet-average and vehicle cents-per-mile valuation rules—to value employees’ personal use of employer-provided vehicles.  The 1989 fringe benefit regulations imposed modest maximum vehicle values ($16,500 and $12,800, respectively, as adjusted for inflation) to limit the use of the rules, which have not kept pace with rising vehicle costs.

When the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) increased the dollar limitations on the depreciation deductions for luxury automobiles under section 280F(a), the permitted maximum value of a vehicle, when using either special valuation rule, increased to $50,000, which is adjusted for inflation beginning with calendar year 2019.  On February 5, 2020, Treasury published final regulations amending Treasury Regulation § 1.61-21 to align the increased limitations on the maximum vehicle fair market values with the TCJA changes.  Consistent with earlier guidance in proposed regulations, Notice 2019-08, and Notice 2019-34, the final regulations also provide transition rules for employers who desire to retroactively use either special value rule for 2018 or 2019, if the vehicle would have met the increased maximum value requirement in the year the vehicle was first made available to any employee of the employer.
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