Dec 20, 2022 Matthew Hung
Spreading some (tax-effective) Christmas cheer
With Christmas around the corner, what is the tax impact of various Christmas or holiday related gestures? Here are some things to consider.
The key to Christmas presents for your team is to keep the gift spontaneous, ad hoc, and from a tax perspective, below $300 per person. $300 is the minor benefit threshold for Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) so anything at or above this level will mean that your Christmas generosity will result in a gift to the Tax Office as well.
To qualify as a minor benefit, the gifts also have to be ad hoc (no ongoing gym membership payments or giving the same person regular gift vouchers amounting to $300 or more).
A question we often get is what is the tax impact if you give your team say a hamper and a gift card? The good news is that the tax rules treat each item (the hamper and the gift card) separately. FBT won’t necessarily apply as long as the value of each item is less than $300. The minor benefits exemption can get complex so it is a good idea to check-in with your RDL accountant.
The staff Christmas Party
If you host the work Christmas party at your office on a work day FBT is unlikely to apply regardless of how much you spend per person. As taxi travel that starts or finishes at an employee’s place of work is also exempt from FBT, if you have a few team members that need to be loaded into a taxi after overindulging in Christmas cheer, the ride home is exempt from FBT.
If your work Christmas party is out of the office, keep the cost of your celebrations below $300 per person. This way, you won’t generally pay FBT because anything below $300 per person is a minor benefit and exempt.
If the party is not held on your business premises, then the taxi travel is taken to be a separate benefit from the party itself and any Christmas gifts you have provided. In theory, this means that if the cost of each item per person is below $300 then the gift, party and taxi travel can all be FBT free. However, the total cost of all benefits provided to the employees needs to be considered in determining whether the benefits are minor.
The trade-off to this is that if the costs associated with hosting the party are not subject to FBT then it would be difficult to claim a tax deduction or GST credits for the expenses.
If your business hosts slightly more extravagant parties and goes above the $300 per person minor benefit limit, you will generally pay FBT but you can also claim a tax deduction and GST credits for the cost of the event.
Where a gift you give to the client is given for relationship building with the expectation that the client will keep giving you work (that is, there is a link between the gift and revenue generation), then the gift is generally tax deductible as long as it doesn’t involve entertainment.
Entertaining your clients at Christmas is not tax deductible. If you take them out to a nice restaurant, to a show, or any other form of entertainment, then you can’t claim it as a deductible business expense and you can’t claim the GST credits either. It’s goodwill to all men but not much more.