Gifts, awards, and long-service awards

On this page

Rules for gifts and awards

Policy for non-cash gifts and awards

Long-service awards

A gift or award that you give an employee is a taxable benefit from employment, whether it is cash, near-cash, or non-cash. However, we have an administrative policy that exempts non-cash gifts and awards in some cases.

Cash and near-cash gifts or awards are always a taxable benefit for the employee. A near-cash item is one that functions as cash, such as a gift certificate or gift card, or an item that can be easily converted to cash, such as gold nuggets, securities, or stocks.

Example of a near cash gift or award

You give your employee a $100 gift card or gift certificate to a department store. The employee can use this to purchase whatever merchandise or service the store offers. We consider the gift card or gift certificate to be an additional remuneration that is a taxable benefit for the employee because it functions in the same way as cash.

Example of a non cash gift or award

You give your employee tickets to an event on a specific date and time. This may not be a taxable benefit for the employee since there is no element of choice, if the other rules for gifts and awards are met.

Rules for gifts and awards

A gift has to be for a special occasion such as a religious holiday, a birthday, a wedding, or the birth of a child.

An award has to be for an employment-related accomplishment such as outstanding service, employees' suggestions, or meeting or exceeding safety standards. It is recognition of an employee's overall contribution to the workplace, not recognition of job performance. Generally, a valid, non-taxable award has clearly defined criteria, a nomination and evaluation process, and a limited number of recipients.

An award given to your employees for performance-related reasons (such as performing well in the job he or she were hired to do, exceeding production standards, completing a project ahead of schedule or under budget, putting in extra time to finish a project, covering for a sick manager/colleague) is considered a reward and is a taxable benefit for the employee.

If you give your employee a non-cash gift or award for any other reason, this policy does not apply and you have to include the fair market value of the gift or award in the employee's income.

The gifts and awards policy does not apply to cash and near‑cash items or to gifts or awards given to non-arm's length employees, such as your relatives, shareholders, or people related to them.

For more information, go to Gifts and awards outside our policy.

Value

Use the fair market value (FMV) of each gift to calculate the total value of gifts and awards given in the year, not its cost to you. You have to include the value of the GST/HST.

Answer a few questions to see if there is a taxable benefit. Do this for each item you give an employee.

Questions and answers

Payroll deductions

Where the benefit is taxable, it is also pensionable. Deduct CPP contributions and income tax.

If the taxable benefit is paid in cash, it is insurable. Deduct EI premiums. If it is a non-cash benefit, it is not insurable. Do not deduct EI premiums. For EI purposes only, near-cash taxable benefits are treated the same as non-cash taxable benefits. Therefore, they are not insurable. Do not deduct EI premiums.

Reporting the benefit

Include the taxable gift, award or social event in box 14, "Employment income" and in the "Other information" area under code 40 at the bottom of the employee's T4 slip. For more information, see T4 - Information for employers.

Examples of how to calculate taxability of gifts and awards
Example #1

Jeffrey's employer gave him the following gifts and awards.

Table 1 Taxability of gifts and awards
Gifts and Awards Value Taxable?
T-shirt with employer logo $15 (cost) No  non-cash item of nominal value, further reduced by the company logo.
Birthday gift (gift certificate) $75 Yes  a gift certificate is near cash, and therefore is not included under the gifts and awards policy.
Reward for meeting sales performance target (weekend holiday) $400 Yes  meeting a performance target does not fall under the definition of an award; therefore it does not fall under the gifts and awards policy. We consider it to be additional remuneration.
10 year anniversary award (art print); the last anniversary award was received 5 years previously. $275 No  the art print is eligible under the long service/anniversary award, and Jeffrey has not received such an award in the 5 previous years.
Wedding gift (crystal vase) $300 A gift under the policy: see Calculation for example 1.
Innovation and Excellence Award (tickets to a sporting event) $250 An award under the policy: see Calculation for example 1.
Holiday season gift (watch) $150 A gift under the policy: see Calculation for example 1.
Total $1,465 Taxable amount: $675
Calculation for example 1

The gifts and awards that fall within the policy - the wedding gift, Innovation and Excellence award, and holiday season gift - have a total value of $300 + $250 + $150 = $700. Jeffrey's taxable benefit under the policy will be $200 ($700 − $500).

As well, both the value of the birthday gift ($75) and the reward for meeting the sales target ($400) have to be included in Jeffrey's income.

Note that the $225 "shortfall" in the long service award category cannot be used to eliminate the $200 under the policy that has to be included in Jeffrey's income.

Example #2

Ahmed's employer has given him the following gifts and awards.

Table 2  – Taxability of gifts and awards
Gifts and Awards Value Taxable?
Coffee mug $8 (cost) No  non-cash item of nominal value.
Social Committee 50/50 draw - Employer does not fund or control the social committee. $243 No  the gifts and awards policy applies to employer/employee relationships.
Gift recognizing birth of first child (gift card) $150 Yes  a gift certificate is near cash, and always taxable.
Holiday gift (voucher for a turkey) $50 A gift under the policy: see Calculation for example 2.
An award (a watch) for 3 year's service $200 Yes  since Ahmed has worked for the company for less than 5 years, this long service award does not meet the parameters of the policy and is taxable.
Award in recognition of running the company charity drive. $375 An award under the policy: see Calculation for example 2.
A birthday gift (concert tickets) $175 An award under the policy: see Calculation for example 2.
Total $1,201 Taxable amount: $450
Calculation for example 2

The gifts and awards that fall within the policy - the recognition award, the birthday gift, and the holiday gift - have a total value of $375 + $175 + $50 = $600. Ahmed's taxable benefit under the policy is $100 ($600 − $500).

As well, the value of both the gift for the birth of his child ($150) and the award for 3 years service ($200) have to be included in his income.

Policy for non-cash gifts and awards

You may give an employee an unlimited number of non-cash gifts and awards with a combined total value of $500 or less annually. If the fair market value (FMV) of the gifts and awards you give your employee is greater than $500, the amount over $500 must be included in the employee's income. For example, if you give gifts and awards with a total value of $650, there is a taxable benefit of $150 ($650-$500).

There are special rules for Long service awards.

Items of small or trivial value do not have to be included when calculating the total value of gifts and awards given in the year for the purpose of the exemption. Examples of items for small or trivial value include:

  • coffee or tea;
  • T-shirts with employer's logos;
  • mugs;
  • plaques or trophies.

For more information, go to Gifts and awards outside our policy.

Value

Use the fair market value of each gift to calculate the total value of gifts and awards given in the year, not its cost to you. You have to include the value of the GST/HST.

Long-service awards

As well as the gifts and awards in the policy stated under Policy for non-cash gifts and award, you can, once every five years, give your employee a non-cash long-service or anniversary award valued at $500 or less, tax free. The award must be for a minimum of five years' service, and it has to be at least five years since you gave the employee the last long-service or anniversary award. Any amount over the $500 is a taxable benefit.

If it has not been at least five years since the employee's last long-service or anniversary award, then the award is a taxable benefit. For example, if the 15 year award was given at 17 years of service, and then the next award is given at 20 years of service, the 20 year award will be a taxable benefit, since five years will not have passed since the previous award.

The $500 exemption for long-service awards does not affect the $500 exemption for other gifts and awards in the year you give them. For example, you can give an employee a non-cash long-service award worth $500 in the same year you give him or her other non-cash gifts and awards worth $500. In this case, there is no taxable benefit for the employee.

Note

If the value of the long-service award is less than $500, you cannot add the shortfall to the annual $500 exemption for non-cash gifts and awards.

Answer a few questions to see if there is a taxable benefit. Do this for each item you give an employee.

Questions and answers
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Privacy statement

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: