How to spread some festive cheer…with tax-deductible savings

By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, CEO of The Tax Guys

It’s getting wintery. The temperature is dropping which means we’ll want to stay in the warm and eat, drink and celebrate the season of goodwill. It’s also a time of staff parties, Christmas bonuses, and perhaps annual awards.

Let’s look at some handy tax-deduction to bring a touch of festive merriment (and keep both your accountant and the tax man happy).

Staff Gifts ‒ up to £50

Fortunately, gifts to employees are typically exempt from either tax or NI. Splash out…just keep it under £50! This is because HMRC considers any gift worth less than £50 to be trivial.

It can’t be a cash gift or be a part of the employee’s contract or performance reward, this would be taxed as earnings.

To be sure choose traditional gifts, e.g. chocolates, or perhaps a board game, and keep it £50 or under per person.

Vouchers ‒ up to £50

Non-cash vouchers (those redeemable against products and not exchangeable for cash) fall under the trivial benefit rules mentioned above. If you’re not sure what to gift staff, they can be a great solution. Vouchers that can be exchanged for cash have to go through payroll and will be subject to tax and NI. Any voucher that exceeds the £50 limit per person will need to be reported to HMRC on a P11D form.

Christmas Parties ‒ up to £150

Most business owners know that they can spend up to £150 per head (incl. VAT) tax-free on social functions to entertain staff.

But the £150 limit is per head and not per staff member. You must divide the cost of the event by the number of attendees, including spouses/partners. Essentially, you can budget for £300 per couple.

But be careful. If someone drops out and it ends up costing £151 or more per head, then the full £151 is taxable, not just the additional £1.

If you have summer and Christmas parties, remember that both count towards your £150/year exemption and cannot exceed that limit.

We recommend keeping attendance records and ensuring all staff are invited to maximise your budget. For more info see EIM21690 on HMRC’s site.

Awarding Staff ‒ £5,000 Tax-Free

Awards are a fun way to celebrate the end of the year and to highlight employees’ outstanding contributions.

There are two types of awards to consider:

Encouragement awards can be given as rewards for good suggestions or an extra-special effort. They’re tax-free up to £25.

Financial benefit awards can be rewarded for suggestions that will make or save the business money. These awards are exempt up to a whopping £5,000!

Some conditions have to be met. The suggestion scheme must be open to all staff and be related to your business. Suggestions also need to be in addition to the normal day-to-day work, so they can’t be made at a meeting and the idea must go above and beyond the norm.

To check if you are eligible, the HMRC website (reference EIM06600) has the full rundown.

Customer Gifts ‒ up to £50

Thinking beyond staff – customer gifts are tax-free up to £50 as well.

The total gifting amount much be under £50 per customer over the entire year. You also need to ensure that the gift bears a conspicuous advert for your business and isn’t food, drink or tobacco (unless they’re samples of products).

Inheritance Gifts ‒ up to £3,000

If you gift a large value of money or assets to a family member, inheritance tax rules usually kick in.  However, there are some fairly generous reliefs and exemptions, allowing gifts of up to £3,000 a year as well as a small gift exemption of up to £250 a year. So, to shave some money off your personal tax liability, consider gifting money this Christmas.

Christmas Rewards

When you manage people, you need endless ideas for keeping everyone engaged in their work and well-motivated.

A way of achieving that this Christmas could be with retention and performance incentives. The incentive could be share options or improved remuneration, which could both work out as tax efficiencies, saving you money. Keeping staff happy also helps reduce recruitment costs too!

There are plenty of ways to reduce your tax, however the only way to be sure to get things right is to hire a good accountant or tax advisor to look at your accounts. They’ll also be able to help plan for the coming year so you can maximise your tax exemptions.

In the meantime, may you, your staff and your clients enjoy the festive merriment.


Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA is an award-winning chartered tax adviser and accountant, and the CEO of The Tax Guys.
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