What Are Fringe Benefits? Definition and Examples


Fringe benefits play a vital role in employee compensation, offering an array of perks that enhance job satisfaction and attract high-quality talent. From health insurance to unique offerings like pet-friendly workplaces, these benefits are essential tools for modern businesses to recruit, motivate, and retain employees.

Understanding fringe benefits

When we talk about fringe benefits, we’re delving into something more than just the paycheck you receive for your hard work. These benefits are like a special treat that companies offer to make your job even more rewarding.

Think of it this way: Imagine you’re at a carnival, and in addition to the main attractions, there’s a booth with all sorts of extra goodies – things that make the experience even more fun and exciting. In the working world, those extra goodies are called fringe benefits.

These benefits can come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from things you might really need, like health insurance to help cover medical expenses, to some unique surprises that can put a smile on your face, like enjoying free ice cream or bringing your furry friend to work.

It’s like getting a little extra bonus for being a valuable part of the company. So, when you hear the term “fringe benefits,” remember that it’s all about those extra cool things your company does to show they appreciate you.

Common fringe benefits

Basic fringe benefits often encompass essentials like health insurance, life insurance, and tuition assistance. Additionally, companies might provide childcare reimbursement, cafeteria subsidies, below-market loans, employee discounts, employee stock options, and even personal use of company vehicles. In some cases, businesses with unique cultures, like PetSmart and Dogtopia, offer pet-friendly workplaces, while Ben & Jerry’s entices its workforce with free ice cream.

Moreover, some companies go the extra mile to create appealing work environments. Patagonia, for instance, boasts volleyball courts and yoga classes at its headquarters, promoting a healthy work-life balance.

Extraordinary fringe benefits

In the world of business, where companies are like players in a big game, some want to attract the very best players to their team. This leads to something exciting called “extraordinary fringe benefits.”

Imagine you’re at a talent show, and every contestant is trying to impress the judges with their unique talents. In the business world, companies do something similar by offering really special perks to stand out and grab the attention of the most talented folks out there.

For instance, Alphabet, which is like the parent of Google, knows how to catch your eye. They offer amazing things like a bus service that takes you to work for free, and a cafeteria that serves delicious, gourmet meals. Then there’s Microsoft, another big player, which knows the importance of family time. They give new moms a whole 20 weeks of paid time off, and other new parents get 12 weeks too!

So, when we talk about extraordinary fringe benefits, think of them as the “extra mile” that some companies go to, making their team members feel extra special and valued.

Valuing fringe benefits

Have you ever played a game where you had to exchange your toy for another one of equal value? That’s a bit like what happens when companies figure out how much their fringe benefits are worth.

Assigning a value to fringe benefits is like giving each benefit a price tag, just like in a store. But instead of looking at how much people pay in a store, we look at how much people might pay if they wanted the same thing somewhere else.

However, not all benefits are treated the same way. Some have special rules. Take “working condition benefits” for example. If a company gives you something you can use for work, but you also use it for fun, part of its value might be considered as “taxable income.” It’s like saying, “Since you’re having fun with it too, we’ll count a little bit of it as part of your earnings.”

Exemptions and taxation

Think of “exemptions” as special permission slips from the tax office. When it comes to fringe benefits, some are so cool that they get these permission slips, and they don’t have to be counted as extra earnings. It’s like getting a note that says, “Hey, you don’t have to worry about paying extra tax on this awesome benefit!”

To make things even more interesting, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a list, kind of like a treasure map, showing which fringe benefits are okay to be exempt from taxes. Things like health benefits, awards for doing great work, and help with adopting a new family member are on that list. But, here’s the catch—sometimes, only certain people can use these exemptions. It’s like saying, “These cool benefits are only for certain players in the game.”

Remember, taxes and benefits can be a bit like solving a puzzle, but learning about exemptions and taxation can help you understand the rules of the game.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Enhances job satisfaction
  • Attracts high-quality talent
  • Fosters a competitive edge
  • Promotes work-life balance
  • Potential for increased tax liability
  • Administrative complexities
  • May vary by industry

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What exactly are fringe benefits?

Fringe benefits are non-wage benefits provided to employees in addition to their regular salary or wages. These can range from health insurance to unique perks like pet-friendly workplaces or free ice cream.

Are all fringe benefits taxable?

No, not all fringe benefits are taxable. The IRS provides exemptions for certain benefits, meaning they don’t have to be counted as extra earnings. However, some benefits might be considered “taxable income” under specific circumstances.

Why do companies offer fringe benefits?

Companies offer fringe benefits to enhance job satisfaction, attract high-quality talent, maintain a competitive edge in the market, and promote work-life balance among employees.

What are some examples of common fringe benefits?

Common fringe benefits include health insurance, life insurance, tuition assistance, childcare reimbursement, employee discounts, and personal use of company vehicles, among others.

How do “extraordinary fringe benefits” differ from regular ones?

Extraordinary fringe benefits are unique and special perks that companies offer to stand out in the competitive business landscape and attract the best talent. Examples include a free bus service to work or extended paid parental leave.

How are fringe benefits valued by companies?

Fringe benefits are typically valued at their fair market value. This means looking at how much an individual might pay for the same benefit outside the company.

Can all employees avail of the exemptions provided for fringe benefits?

No, sometimes only certain individuals can use the exemptions provided by the IRS for specific fringe benefits.

What are the pros and cons of fringe benefits?

Pros include enhanced job satisfaction, attraction of high-quality talent, fostering a competitive edge, and promoting work-life balance. Cons, on the other hand, can encompass potential increased tax liability, administrative complexities, and variations by industry.

Where can I find more information about the taxation of employee benefits?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides guidelines and resources on the taxation of employee benefits. You can refer to their official website for detailed information.

Key takeaways

  • Fringe benefits enhance job satisfaction and attract high-quality talent.
  • Common benefits include health insurance, life insurance, and tuition assistance.
  • Unique offerings like pet-friendly workplaces and free ice cream can create a distinctive company culture.
  • Exceptional fringe benefits are a strategic tool to compete for top talent.
  • Fringe benefits are valued at fair market value and may be taxable if not IRS-exempt.
  • The Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits outlines various exclusions from income tax.
View article sources
  1. Fringe Benefits – University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service
  2. Fringe Rates and Guidelines – The University of Texas at Austin
  3. Employee Benefits – Internal Revenue Service
  4. The Potential Tax Benefits of Car Leasing vs. Buying – SuperMoney
  5. 2023 Personal Loans Industry Study – SuperMoney