Christmas gifts tax treatment, by Natasha Dixon
The staff Christmas party
Whether the party is hosted on your own premises or offsite, it is classed as entertainment. Expenditure on entertainment is only 50% deductible for tax purposes. Where entertainment is only 50% deductible, associated costs such as catering, venue and equipment hire, music etc is also limited to 50%.
Light refreshments, such as morning or afternoon tea provided on business premises, are an exception to this rule and are 100% deductible.
Staff gifts and bonuses
Most staff gifts, including gift vouchers, apart from food and drink, are treated as an unclassified benefit under the FBT rules and are 100% deductible, subject to limits.
Provided all fringe benefits do not exceed $300 for that employee (or $1200 per annum) and the value of unclassified benefits for all employees for the last four quarters does not exceed $22,500, the gift would be exempt from FBT. This is an all or nothing approach, which means that once the threshold is exceeded the whole value of the gift is subject to FBT, not just the surplus.
A cash bonus to your staff is treated as taxable income to the employee and will be subject to PAYE. As this is an employment expense it is therefore fully deductible for income tax purposes.
Gifts are typically a marketing and promotion exercise and as such, we consider they should be 100% deductible and included in your advertising and promotion expenses. However, if they include food and drink, the entertainment rules apply and relief is limited to 50% for that portion e.g. the cost of a gift basket, needs to be split between food/drink item costs and other costs. To maximise deductibility you may consider gifting clients sunhats and beach balls rather than a Christmas ham or wine.
Client Christmas drinks
Client related entertainment is also subject to entertainment rules. The difference is that if the function is open to the public then 100% deductibility applies. In Kaitaia, for example, a number of businesses have pre-Christmas evenings open to anyone who wants to attend.
All other client Christmas functions will be subject to the normal entertainment rules and thus limited to 50% deductibility.
The 50% entertainment limitation applies to both income tax and GST and it is important to keep good records to make tax time a lot easier and ensure correct treatment can be applied to these expenses.
The entertainment and FBT rules are quite complex and each claim is likely to be different. It is wise to get advice from your accountant if you are unsure of your obligations.