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  • Writer's pictureLaura Walker

Understanding Taxable Employee Benefits: Gifts vs. Taxable Items

Navigating the complexities of payroll and taxation is something we are constantly helping our clients with. One common area of confusion is distinguishing between gifts and taxable items given to employees. In this blog post, we'll shed light on this topic, with a special focus on gift cards valued at over $25. We'll also reference the relevant IRS guidelines to ensure accuracy.

Gifts vs. Taxable Items

When employers want to show appreciation to their employees, they often turn to gift cards as a popular choice. However, not all gift cards are created equal in the eyes of the IRS.

Gifts: Gifts are generally non-taxable items when given to employees. The IRS considers a gift to be any item given to an employee out of affection, respect, or similar personal motivations. These gifts are not subject to income tax and are not included in an employee's gross income.

For example, giving an employee a small gift basket during the holiday season or a modest birthday gift is not considered taxable income.

Taxable Items: On the other hand, items given to employees that are considered compensation for services rendered are usually taxable. This includes cash, bonuses, and certain gift cards.

Gift Cards Valued Over $25: Suppose you decide to reward an employee's exceptional performance with a gift card valued at more than $25. In that case, the IRS typically views it as a form of compensation, making it taxable income. This means the value of the gift card will be added to the employee's paycheck and subject to federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax.

It's crucial for employers and bookkeepers to keep accurate records of such taxable items and report them correctly during tax filing season.

IRS Publication: For a detailed understanding of how the IRS distinguishes between gifts and taxable items, you can refer to IRS Publication 15-B, "Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits." This publication provides comprehensive guidance on various fringe benefits, including gifts and prizes, and can serve as a valuable resource for both employers and bookkeepers.

In conclusion, while giving gifts to employees is a thoughtful gesture, it's essential to be aware of the tax implications, especially when it comes to gift cards valued over $25. By understanding the IRS guidelines and correctly categorizing such items, you can help your clients stay compliant and avoid unexpected tax issues.

If you have any further questions or need assistance with your business tax, payroll and bookkeeping needs, feel free to reach out to us. We're here to help you navigate the complexities of payroll and taxation!

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