Did you know that in the Holland (and the wider Netherlands) people give gifts on 5th December to celebrate Sinterklaas. The Dutch traditions might look a little dubious in the current day with conspicuous blackface in evidence, but there is nothing to stop you rewarding your staff and customers and give gifts at any time of the year. Beware the tax and VAT traps that could saddle you or your staff with extra charges.
There are two sides to the equation for tax on Christmas gifts; one for the giver and the other for the receiver. As a business owner and employer you’ll usually be the giver. The questions for you are:
Gifts to your employees are probably the easiest and most tax-friendly form of business gifts. You can claim a tax deduction from your business profits for these no matter how much they cost. However, you can land yourself with a tax and NI bill if you overdo it.
A gift that costs more than £50 (including secondary costs such as delivery charges) counts as a taxable perk for the employee. HMRC account for this as a benefit in kind. As an employer you’ll have to pay Class 1A NI at 13.8% of the full cost. Plus, if you don’t want your workers to have to foot the tax on what is meant to be a goodwill gesture, you’ll have to pay it. For example, this would result in a £60 gift costing you a minimum of £85 because of the tax and NI.
Limit the cost of Christmas gifts to no more than £50 per head. They will then be covered by the trivial benefits exemption for employees meaning that you won’t have to account for their tax or the Class 1A NI. Cash gifts aren’t covered by the exemption.
You can reclaim VAT on the cost of staff gifts regardless of their cost. However, you might have to account for VAT in the return period that you make the gifts because they’re treated as a supply.
You must account for VAT on a gift if its value (usually that’s equal to its cost) exceeds £50, or the total number of gifts made within a twelve-month period has a value of more than £50. Where a gift is exempt, or zero-rated, e.g. a book, you won’t have to account for VAT.
As above, keeping the cost of gifts within £50 is the most efficient option for VAT.
You aren’t entitled to a tax deduction for the purchase of business gifts regardless of their cost or value, but there is an exception.
The VAT position if you give gifts to customers, suppliers etc. is identical to that for gifts to employees. You must account for VAT if the gift alone, or series of gifts together, have a value of more than £50.
As far as HMRC is concerned there is nothing special about Christmas gifts. No extra allowances are available for seasonal gifts. The usual direct tax and VAT rules apply for trivial benefits.
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