I work as a Resident Assistant for my University.
According to Moss-Adam's article, the difference of the lesser of market value of the property rent at YE or 5% of the total value of the house/apartment and the value the employee paid is taxable income.
Is this a taxable amount to the employee or is it a deduction for the school?
I work as a Resident Assistant for my University.
To answer your question directly, this is a taxable benefit that they are providing for you in lieu of higher wages. It is taxable to the employee as income and through payroll taxes. It is taxable to the employer for their half of the payroll taxes.
Since you worked as an RA, the university should send you a W2 form. The taxable wages line in that form would be the sum of both the direct salary and employer paid benefits that are taxable. As such you should not need to do anything than enter the numbers that they provide you.
You should ask a CPA or tax lawyer to what extent living in specific housing provided by the employer as a job requirement is exempt from taxation. You might find a nice surprise. Your tax professional can also help you to report the items properly if mis-reported.
Much of this is in the article you cite in the question, but perhaps a look at some of the original sources is warranted and will show why some expert advice might be useful.
I would argue that an RA who is required to police and counsel undergrads in a college dorm in exchange for a room or a flat is closer to a worker with quarters on a ship or at an oil well than a full professor who receives a rental home in a neighborhood near the university as a benefit. In the first case living at the provided premises is necessary to do the job, but in the second case it is merely a benefit of the job.
The IRS Publication 15-B guidance on employer provided housing is not entirely clear, so you might want to get some additional advice:
Lodging on Your Business Premises
You can exclude the value of lodging you furnish to an employee from the employee's wages if it meets the following tests.
It is furnished on your business premises.
It is furnished for your convenience.
The employee must accept it as a condition of employment.
Different tests may apply to lodging furnished by educational institutions. See section 119(d) of the Internal Revenue Code for details.
If you allow your employee to choose to receive additional pay instead of lodging, then the lodging, if chosen, isn’t excluded. The exclusion also doesn't apply to cash allowances for lodging.
On your business premises.
For this exclusion, your business premises is generally your employee's place of work. For example, if you're a household employer, then lodging furnished in your home to a household employee would be considered lodging furnished on your business premises. For special rules that apply to lodging furnished in a camp located in a foreign country, see section 119(c) of the Internal Revenue Code and its regulations.
For your convenience.
Whether or not you furnish lodging for your convenience as an employer depends on all the facts and circumstances. You furnish the lodging to your employee for your convenience if you do this for a substantial business reason other than to provide the employee with additional pay. This is true even if a law or an employment contract provides that the lodging is furnished as pay. However, a written statement that the lodging is furnished for your convenience isn't sufficient.
Condition of employment.
Lodging meets this test if you require your employees to accept the lodging because they need to live on your business premises to be able to properly perform their duties. Examples include employees who must be available at all times and employees who couldn't perform their required duties without being furnished the lodging. It doesn't matter whether you must furnish the lodging as pay under the terms of an employment contract or a law fixing the terms of employment. Example of qualifying lodging.
You employ Sam at a construction project at a remote job site in Alaska. Due to the inaccessibility of facilities for the employees who are working at the job site to obtain lodging and the prevailing weather conditions, you furnish lodging to your employees at the construction site in order to carry on the construction project. You require that your employees accept the lodging as a condition of their employment. You may exclude the lodging that you provide from Sam's wages. Additionally, since sufficient eating facilities aren’t available near your place of employment, you may also exclude meals you provide to Sam from his wages, as discussed under Meals on Your Business Premises , later in this section.
Example of nonqualifying lodging.
A hospital gives Joan, an employee of the hospital, the choice of living at the hospital free of charge or living elsewhere and receiving a cash allowance in addition to her regular salary. If Joan chooses to live at the hospital, the hospital can't exclude the value of the lodging from her wages because she isn't required to live at the hospital to properly perform the duties of her employment.
One question would be how the conflict with IRC 119(d) is resolved for someone who must live in the dorm to watch over the dorm and its undergrads.
Here's 26USC119(d) from LII:
(d) Lodging furnished by certain educational institutions to employees
(1) In general
In the case of an employee of an educational institution, gross income shall not include the value of qualified campus lodging furnished to such employee during the taxable year.
(2) Exception in cases of inadequate rent
Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the extent of the excess of— (A) the lesser of— (i) 5 percent of the appraised value of the qualified campus lodging, or (ii) the average of the rentals paid by individuals (other than employees or students of the educational institution) during such calendar year for lodging provided by the educational institution which is comparable to the qualified campus lodging provided to the employee, over (B) the rent paid by the employee for the qualified campus lodging during such calendar year. The appraised value under subparagraph (A)(i) shall be determined as of the close of the calendar year in which the taxable year begins, or, in the case of a rental period not greater than 1 year, at any time during the calendar year in which such period begins.
(3) Qualified campus lodging
For purposes of this subsection, the term “qualified campus lodging” means lodging to which subsection (a) does not apply and which is— (A) located on, or in the proximity of, a campus of the educational institution, and (B) furnished to the employee, his spouse, and any of his dependents by or on behalf of such institution for use as a residence.
(4) Educational institution, etc.
For purposes of this subsection— (A) In generalThe term “educational institution” means— (i) an institution described in section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii) (or an entity organized under State law and composed of public institutions so described), or (ii) an academic health center. (B) Academic health centerFor purposes of subparagraph (A), the term “academic health center” means an entity— (i) which is described in section 170(b)(1)(A)(iii), (ii) which receives (during the calendar year in which the taxable year of the taxpayer begins) payments under subsection (d)(5)(B) or (h) of section 1886 of the Social Security Act (relating to graduate medical education), and (iii) which has as one of its principal purposes or functions the providing and teaching of basic and clinical medical science and research with the entity’s own faculty.