My manager showed me a (relatively) new smartphone. I estimate it to be 1-2 years old. It's used, and he said it was a company phone that has been replaced.

He asked if I want it, because my own phone is (kinda) old and this would be an improvement. It was a company phone but if I accept it it will be mine.

I may be paranoid, but is there anything that should concern me about this?

We're generally in very good terms, although only in the office.


3 Answers 3


There's nothing to be concerned about. Companies giving old property to employees saves them the costs of disposing of it and keeps it out of the landfill for a bit longer.

For a valuable item, ask for a short memo on company letterhead signed by your manager indicating that it was given to you and that the company relinquishes all interest in it. This will be useful if the company doesn't remove the phone from its property records and comes after you later or your mobile carrier notices you've switched to a device formerly owned by another customer.

  • 23
    It varies from company to company, but in my experience it's not unusual for companies to replace electronic equipment every 2 or 3 years and dispose of the older items in creative ways. In different organizations I have seen, for example, old PCs donated to charities, old lab equipment auctioned off to staff and the proceeds donated to charity and, in one case, an email sent to everyone saying "we have a pile of old equipment about to be sent to recycling - feel free to help yourself by end of day". Jan 19, 2015 at 14:56
  • Thanks for the advice. I'm not sure if I'll ask for the memo you mentioned, but it's a good idea and I'll keep it in mind.
    – George T
    Jan 19, 2015 at 23:36
  • 11
    At my former university, throwing away computers involved a lot of bureaucracy. So, instead, they are just "stored" in an open corridor for people to steal.
    – Davidmh
    Jan 20, 2015 at 9:16
  • Some of my companies suppliers occasionally send old kit along with big orders, they got a decent but not amazing printer they didn't need and sent round an "anyone want this" email. It's served me well for the last few years. It improves staff moral slightly and saves the trouble of getting rid of such things.
    – Murphy
    Jan 20, 2015 at 10:55
  • @LaconicDroid : I've seen lotteries being organized when enough stuff piled up which was no longer used but had enough value to be a waste to just throw them away. It avoids the conflicts of "I've seen it first!".
    – Val
    Feb 20, 2019 at 21:47

Little known caveat in the US: If the item becomes your personal property than it's actually taxable income and technically it must show up on your W2 and tax return. For a small-ish item, that's a royal pain in terms of paperwork so it's easier if the phone remains company property and you return it once you leave or once it becomes obsolete and/or broken.

One of my former employers stopped giving away stuff because the IRS came down on them pretty hard. There was no funny business going on: it was really just very small things and old junk. You can truthfully declare it to have $0 value when you the company is about to trash stuff (e.g. non-sellable prototypes, parts that are not used anymore, etc.). However the associated paperwork and effort record-keeping was cost prohibitive.

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    That same paperwork prevents the higher ups from gifting themselves company BMWs. Jan 19, 2015 at 16:28
  • 4
    One of my former companies had a similar policy with old equipment. However if there was any residual value it was sold to the employees at a steep discount (think $100 for a used laptop that could have fetched 300-500 on the open market). This way it was sold so there was no need for the paperwork for income. However "selling" a BMW for $100 would not have flown. Jan 19, 2015 at 16:54
  • 6
    If a company were making a habit of giving away stuff as "off the books" compensation, I could definitely see the IRS going after them, but in the case of what the OP is talking about here, I find it very unlikely that the IRS would care even if they did know about it. It's certainly below the $600 limit for which a Form 1099-MISC is required. You're right that it probably is technically taxable income, though, so +1 for pointing that out.
    – reirab
    Jan 19, 2015 at 19:06
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    @easymoden00b - I think it's the fact that the company will lease them a BMW that keeps higher ups from gifting themselves BWM's -- who wants to maintain an expensive car when you can drive a company car that the company maintains? The last company I worked at that was large enough to give cars to executives, also had a refueling station for company vehicles that the executives could use for free. Low level employees had their pay docked if they were late for work because their old unreliable car broke down, while execs earning 6 figures had free use of $90K cars, including free fuel.
    – Johnny
    Jan 19, 2015 at 19:34
  • 1
    @Johnny Doesn't matter. A lease is also taxable income. A leased car is actually less valuable to the employee: if you leave, you don't keep it, but it still shows up on your W-2.
    – user13659
    Jan 19, 2015 at 21:18

If it's given to you by your manager, it should be no problem. Just remember that it is company property and you'll have to return it if or when you leave the company.

The item may be expensive, but a two year old company phone that has been replaced by a newer phone has effectively no value for the company, and from the company's point of view, keeping an employee happy at effectively zero cost (if the phone wasn't in your pocket, it would be in your manager's desk and never used) is excellent use of company resources.

  • 13
    Note that the OP specifically says that "if I accept it it will be mine".
    – user
    Jan 19, 2015 at 14:41

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