The tax man wants details on how you’re using your phone: MobilityView says it has the solution

As tax season approaches, accounting departments will have another new challenge to calculate a line item related to cell phones and internet services provided to employees, and a Toronto-based software firm says it can help crunch the numbers.

According to an advisory issued in November, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is asking employers to do more to distinguish between when wireless or internet services provided to workers are actually used for work versus for personal use. The distinction will be important to determine when the employee should pay a taxable benefit, and the onus is on the employer to show the percentage used for work.

MobilityView, founded in 2014 by CEO Thom Damstra, is sounding the clarion call about the new CRA requirements. It also says it has the only software available on the market that can help businesses meet those requirements. Using the software is an alternative to businesses locking down corporate phones entirely, not allowing employees to conduct any personal activities on them.

“The only way for the company to not pay for that personal usage is to lock down that phone,” Damstra says in an interview. “Then the employee will say ‘I’m not carrying two phones, so take the phone back.’ Additionally, the Canada Revenue Agency will still require the employer to prove that there is no personal usage; and it’s virtually impossible to prevent an employee from making or taking a personal call or personal SMS.”

Delivering device-level analytics while respecting privacy

The firm’s Mobile Cost Management Platform requires the installation of a light-weight client on an employee’s iOS or Android device. Analytics on calls, data usage, SMS, and other device activity are tracked and automated reports are generated. Damstra makes a point of saying the firm follows Privacy by Design principles, an information privacy framework developed by former Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.

“It’s absolutely inappropriate for an app company to have access to anything on the device that’s not related to the function of the app,” he says. “We don’t care about pictures, we don’t care about passwords. The less information we have access to, the better.”

The app requires the express permission of the end user to install, and avoids peeking at the content of messages, instead only looking at metadata information such as what app the data is associated with, or the length of messages and calls.

Unique ability leads to big brand partnerships

By placing a client directly on the device, MobilityView has access to analytics that aren’t available at the network operator level.  That capability has led to several partnerships with major firms providing telecommunications services to B2B firms across Canada. It’s also patented its technology across three different continents.

In September 2018, Telus Corp. partnered with the firm through its Enterprise Mobility Alliance program. MobilityView also partnered with wireless solution provider and retail operator National Wireless in September. In November, MobilityView struck a deal with Montreal-based Cellcom, the largest dealer in Quebec. And on Feb. 4, co-working space provider Workhaus announced it will be providing MobilityView as a value-added service to its members.

“Part of the value we’re providing to the mobile operator community is we’re offering analytics that help with customer care and self-managed care,” Damstra says. “Operators have limited visibility into what flows across the network, so they get angry calls from company admins saying ‘Holy Moses, my data bill is ridiculously high, what’s going on with my mobile fleet?'”

Aside from helping businesses identify where to reimburse employees and where not to, the tax code compliance is a factor that extends beyond Canada. Since January 2018, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service also requires documentation for business and personal usage.

“It has been historically impossible to determine if a call or SMS or data packet is for business or personal use,” Damstra says.” We’re solving that problem.”

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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