Is This Holiday Gift Taxable to My Employee?

Is This Holiday Gift Taxable to My Employee?

The holiday season is here, and for many business owners it is the time of year to show employees gratitude for their service with year-end bonuses or gifts.

Cash is always taxable and must be included in an employee’s W2 wages, so a gift card or gift certificate might seem like the preferred option. However, according to the IRS, even if the cash is given in the form of a gift card or certificate since it can be considered as a cash equivalent, it is still taxable:

“Cash or cash equivalent items provided by the employer are never excludable from income. An exception applies for occasional meal money or transportation fare to allow an employee to work beyond normal hours. Gift certificates that are redeemable for general merchandise or have a cash equivalent value are not de minimis benefits and are taxable.

A certificate that allows an employee to receive a specific item of personal property (i.e. a grocery store certificate for a turkey, Christmas tree, etc.) that is minimal in value, provided infrequently, and is administratively impractical to account for, may be excludable as a de minimis benefit, depending on facts and circumstances.”

Therefore, gift cards such as those issued by Visa, Amazon, Target, etc., are taxable and must be included in an employee’s W2 wages. As stated above, gift cards or certificates that can be redeemed for a specific item or service may be excluded as a “de minimis,” or fringe, benefit.

If you have a question about the gift you’re considering for your employees, we are happy to help. Call Canon Capital Payroll Services at 215-723-4881 or contact us online.


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