Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Are Gift Cards Taxable To Employees

Taxing Those Gift Cards: Example

Gift Cards become Taxable Income when gifted to an Employee {Be Compliant How to run the payroll}

Lets say you wanted to give an employee a $100 gift card for the holidays. You decide to use the percentage method for federal income tax.

Follow these steps to determine how much to withhold from the gift card for taxes:

First, multiply the gift card value by 22% to find the federal income tax:

$100 X 0.22 = $22.00

Now, multiply the gift card value by 6.2% to find the Social Security tax :

$100 X 0.062 = $6.20

Next, multiply the gift card value by 1.45% to find the Medicare tax :

$100 X 0.0145 = $1.45

Last but not least, add up all the tax amounts and subtract from the gift card value of $100:

$22.00 + $6.20 + $1.45 = $29.65

$100 $29.65 = $70.35

If there are state and/or local income taxes for your business, withhold those as well.

So, after federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes, your employee would receive a gift card for $70.35. Not the ideal amount, right?

The Gift Of Gift Cards: De Minimis And Reporting Rules


By Angie Ziegler, CPP

Its the holiday season, and employers are already out shopping for the perfect gift for their staff. A gift card can be a great way for both businesses and individuals to show appreciation. However, if your organization gives gift cards to staff, there are steps you must follow to ensure youre compliant with IRS rules.

Gifts To Employees And The Irs

An employees taxable income includes all payments received for work. Salaries and wages, commissions and tips, bonuses and awards, and stock options are among the most common taxable income sources. The IRS also considers anything an employer gives an employee to be a form of taxable compensation . Internal Revenue Code § 102 explicitly states that gifts to an employee are not excluded from the employees gross income.

The IRSs policy on gifts makes it more difficult for employers to be spontaneously generous. However, if gifts did not have tax implications, it would incentivize businesses to restructure employee compensation to avoid taxes. Employees might be paid lower wages supplemented with gifts, thus lowering payroll taxes and taxable income.

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Chapter 5 Remitting The Gst/hst On Employee Benefits

This chapter discusses the GST/HST treatment of employee benefits.

The Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for administering the GST/HST. In Quebec, Revenu Québec administers the GST/HST unless you are a person that is a selected listed financial institution for GST/HST or QST purposes or both. If the physical location of your business is in Quebec, contact Revenu Québec, at 1-800-567-4692. Also see the Revenu Québec publication IN-203, General Information Concerning the QST and the GST/HST, available at Revenu Québec.

Property Acquired Before 1991 Or From A Non

Employee Gift Cards Don

If you acquired property before 1991, you did not pay the GST/HST. Also, you do not generally pay the GST/HST when you acquire property from a non-registrant. As a result, you cannot claim an ITC under these circumstances. However, if you make this property available to your employee and the benefit is taxable for income tax purposes, you may still be considered to have collected the GST/HST on this benefit.


You bought a passenger vehicle from a non-registrant and made it available to your employee throughout 2020. The passenger vehicle is used more than 90% in the commercial activities of your business. You report the value of the benefit, including the GST/HST and if applicable, the PST, on the employee’s T4 slip. For GST/HST purposes, you will be considered to have collected the GST/HST on this benefit even if you could not claim an ITC on the purchase of the passenger vehicle.

Examples for remitting GST/HST on employee benefits

The following examples will help you apply the rules for remitting the GST/HST on employee benefits.

Automobile benefit See examples in the section on Automobile benefits standby charges, operating expense benefit, and reimbursements.

HST considered to have been collected on the motor vehicle benefit = $5,100 × 14/114 = $626.32


The calculation of the amount of GST/HST you are considered to have collected on the motor vehicle benefit differs from that of an amount calculated on an automobile benefit.

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Run Payroll And Use The Gift Card Money Type To Pay The Employee

We recommend you pay this gift card money as a separate payroll, since you wont actually be giving this check to the employee. Its solely to increase the employees taxable income so the money is reported on the employees W-2.

Payroll > Run a New Payroll

If you use direct deposit, be sure to disable it. You have already given this money to the employee. If you have other deductions and contributions, skip these by clicking Show Advanced Options. You may need to confirm whether retirement plan deductions still need to be taken on goodwill compensation.

Unless you have saved the Gift Card money type as frequently used, toggle the Show All Pay Types switch.

Enter the amount of the gift card in the Gift Card Money Type column. Click Next Step when youre finished entering hours and money on Step 1.

On Step 2, if you click View Details, you will see the Gift Card Money Type paid in the Hours and Earnings section. The employees income taxes will properly be withheld on the money. The net pay amount should either be the exact amount of the gift card, if you are grossing up for taxes, or a little less, if the employee is paying the taxes out of original gift card amount.

Finish your payroll as you normally would. Do not give these live checks to employees! The employees now have the amount of the gift card included in their taxable wages and will be included on their W-2.

Airline Passes For Employees And Retirees Of An Airline Company

If you provide standby airline passes to a current airline employee for their personal travel, there is no taxable benefit for the employee.

If you provide space-confirmed airline passes to a current airline employee for personal travel, the passes are a taxable benefit. The value of the benefit to be included in the employees income is the fair market value of the pass , less any amount paid by the employee.

If you provide standby or space-confirmed airline passes to a retired airline employee for their personal travel, there is no taxable benefit for the retired employee.

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Are Gift Cards Taxable Income To Employees

Is it ever possible that a retailer gift card given to employees can use the de minimis exception to taxable income to the employee? What if the gift cards are given at a retailer such as Apple where specific products are the only possible end gifts?

Editor’s Discussion Summary:
  • Gifts under $50 vs any gift opinions
  • Some employers add the cost of the tax to deliver the net gift
  • De minimis meals & employee appreciation awards
  • IRS documents seem to indicate virtually always taxable with few exceptions
  • Plus much more below including this discussion on accounting

Taxation Of Gift Cards To Employees

Are gifts and awards taxable benefits?

Giving gift cards is an easy way to show appreciation to employees, which likely improves morale, but gift cards can become an administrative burden and anger employees with a tax surprise. Most gift cards incur some kind of taxes, so your company should consider gifts that avoid taxation. If you still decide to give gift cards, warn employees of tax consequences.

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The Current Form Of These Rules Took Effect From 6 April 2016 And The Key Conditions Are:

  • The cost of the gift, including VAT, does not exceed £50 per employee.
  • The gift is not cash or a cash voucher a voucher which can be exchanged for cash. A non-cash, gift voucher which can be spent in a retail store should be acceptable.
  • The gift is not provided under a salary sacrifice or other arrangement.
  • The gift is not provided in recognition of particular past or future services performed by the employer – a gift on the occasion of Christmas should meet this requirement.

This is an all or nothing exemption – if the cost of a gift exceeds £50 then the full value is taxable under the usual benefit in kind rules.

Where the benefit is provided to a group of employees and it is impractical to work out the exact cost per individual, then the average cost must come under the £50 limit.

As well as gifts such as turkeys or hampers , the exemption can also be used to cover a staff meal or party costing under £50 a head if the normal staff party limit of £150 per annum either doesnt apply or has already been used in the year .

Bonuses To Owners And Employees

Bonuses for employers/owners are a business expense and your business can deduct them under certain circumstances.

How and when you pay bonuses to business owners depends on the type of business.

  • S corporations can deduct bonuses for shareholders and owners, as long as they own their shares at the time the bonus is paid.
  • Corporations can deduct bonuses for corporate officers who are paid employees.
  • Bonuses are not deductible for small business owners because the owners are considered by the IRS to be self-employed. The money these business owners pay themselves is considered a draw or distributive share, not a bonus.

Bonuses to employees are considered income and they are always taxable to the employee.

If you decide to give your employees a bonus, you should allow them to change their withholding for that paycheck, and change it back again for later paychecks. Many employees like to change their bonus check withholding to get more of the bonus.

Bonuses are considered additional pay for services and are deductible business expenses as long as they are a reasonable amount and they are tied to services by the employee. The bonuses can’t be a gift.

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Are Gift Cards Taxable To Employees

Yes, gift cards are taxable to employees. So, to ensure your employees don’t miss out after paying tax, its important to gross-up on the amount given. This means covering the amount that they will have to pay in taxes, on top of the price of the gift card, to ensure they get the full value from your gift.

There are some ways in which no tax is required on gift cards. For example, don’t choose gift cards with a monetary value, instead give a gift card that is only redeemable against a product for example, a Christmas ham in the holiday season. This means there is no monetary value on the card, it can only be used for one thing and therefore won’t need to be accounted for in an employee’s tax return.

Is There Tax On Gift Card


Yes, gift cards are taxable. According to the IRS, gift cards for employees are considered cash equivalent items. Like cash, you must include gift cards in an employees taxable incomeregardless of how little the gift card value is.

But, there is an exception. You might be able to exclude gift cards you give employees for a specific item of minimal value . Check with a tax professional if you have questions about whether you need to withhold taxes on gift cards.

For all other gift cards, record the value and pay the appropriate amount of taxes.

Now that you know gift cards are taxable, you can avoid making the mistake of giving them to employees without first withholding taxes. Worried about making other payroll errors? Check out our FREE whitepaper, 10 Common Payroll Mistakes You Dont Want to Make, to help you stay compliant.

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Gifts Awards And Long

A gift or award that you give an employee is a taxable benefit from employment, whether it is cash, near-cash, or non-cash. However, we have an administrative policy that exempts non-cash gifts and awards in some cases.

Cash and near-cash gifts or awards are always a taxable benefit for the employee. A near-cash item is one that functions as cash, such as a gift certificate or gift card, or an item that can be easily converted to cash, such as gold nuggets, securities, or stocks. For more information, see Rules for gifts and awards and Policy for non-cash gifts and awards.

Municipal Officer’s Expense Allowance

A municipal corporation or board may pay a non-accountable expense allowance to an elected officer to perform the duties of that office.

For 2019 and later tax years, the full amount of this non-accountable allowance is a taxable benefit. Enter it in box 14, Employment income, and in the Other information area under code 40 at the bottom of the employees T4 slip.

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The People Factor What Your Employees Want

When asked how they would like their employers to show appreciation, employees said:

  • 27% cash
  • 14% employee training and advancement opportunities
  • 12% movie or event tickets
  • 8% flexible parental leave or telecommuting days
  • 6% massages

It’s worth noting that a significant number of workers indicated they simply long for a thank-you from their boss.

The holidays provide the perfect time for businesses to set themselves apart and attract great talent by recognizing their employees hard work.

Express Employment Professionals CEO Bob Funk

Disclaimer: The advice we share on our blog is intended to be informational. It does not replace the expertise of accredited business professionals.

Can I Give My Employee A Gift Card Without Being Taxed

Purchasing Me2You gift cards through Thesaurus Payroll Manager

When it comes to gifts, there a lot of things employers can give employees as de minimis fringe benefits that are not considered taxable. Unfortunately, a gift card or any cash-related gift is not considered de minimis, even if its less than $25.

What does de minimis mean?

According to the IRS, de minimis means something that is so small and provided so infrequently that its unreasonable or impractical to account for it. Because gift cards are essentially the same as cash, they are considered an easy item to be accounted for and, therefore, taxable. There used to be a threshold of $25 to be the maximum amount that could be gifted before having to be taxed, but that is no longer the case. A gift card or cash equivalent is now taxable, regardless of the amount.

What can I give to my employees that isnt taxable?

Gifts that may be considered de minimis include:

  • Occasional employee use of photocopier
  • Employee snacks
  • Tickets for entertainment, such as theater or sporting events
  • Holiday gifts, such as a turkey or ham
  • Flowers, fruit, books, etc., provided under special circumstances
  • Personal use of a cell phone provided by an employer for business purposes
  • Meal money or other qualifying expenses when working overtime

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Create A Taxable Money Type

You will use this to pay the employee the value of the gift card. This is a one-time task. In your Patriot payroll software, go to Settings > Payroll Settings > Hours & Money Types

  • For the Name, you can call it something like Gift Card or Employee Goodwill.
  • You can leave the Frequently Used star uncheck, unless you want to see this money type each time you run a payroll.
  • Leave the W-2 Box blank.
  • Keep the Taxable box checked.
  • Keep the W-2 Third Party Sick Pay box unchecked.

Board Lodging And Transportation Special Work Sites And Remote Work Locations

It is possible for an employee to work at a location that is both a special work site and a remote work location. However, the benefit can only be excluded from the employee’s income once.


If the special work site is in a prescribed zone, see Board, lodging, and transportation at a special work site.

Special work sites

Generally, a special work site is an area where temporary duties are performed by an employee who keeps a self-contained domestic establishment at another location as their principal place of residence. Because of the distance between the two areas, the employee is not expected to return daily from the work site to their principal place of residence.


A self-contained domestic establishment is a house, apartment, or other similar place of residence where a person usually sleeps and eats. It is generally a living unit with restricted access that contains a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping facilities. The SCDE must be separate from any other living unit in the same building. A room in a hotel, dormitory, boarding house, or bunkhouse is not ordinarily considered to be a SCDE.

Usually, the GST/HST and PST applies on meals and accommodations you provide to an employee. In certain cases, such as long-term residential accommodation of one month or more, no GST/HST and PST applies. Where the GST/HST and PST does apply, include it in the value of the benefit.

Board and lodging at a special work site

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Loyalty And Other Points Programs

Your employees may collect loyalty points, such as frequent flyer points or air miles, on their personal credit cards when travelling on business trips, even though you reimburse them for the amounts they spend. Usually, these points can be exchanged or cashed in for rewards .

Your employees do not have to include in their income the value of the rewards they received or enjoyed from the points they collect on these business trips, unless any of the following apply:

  • the points are converted to cash
  • the plan or arrangement between you and the employee seems to be a form of remuneration
  • the plan or arrangement is a form of tax avoidance

If any of the conditions above are met, the employee has to declare the fair market value of any personal rewards they received on an income tax and benefit return.


If you control the points you have to report on their T4 slip the FMV of any personal rewards they received from redeeming the points.

For examples of situations where loyalty and other points programs are considered taxable benefits, go to Loyalty and other points programs.

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