Kira Vermond: Gift Giving At Work

To gift, or not to gift? That's the question many of us are asking ourselves at this time of year. Especially when it comes to the workplace.
After all, there's a lot to consider. Who gets a mug? Are gift certificates okay? Should you buy a bottle of vintage port for the boss, or is that overkill?
And, if you are the boss, you have to think about whether your employees will have to pay tax on any gift you give them. That's right. Some presents present a tax issue because they're deemed part of a person's income.
In fact, gifts fall under three categories: cash, near-cash and non-cash.
For the lucky people who receive a cash bonus this month, it's a no brainer. They have to pay tax on that money.
But what if your employer gives out gift cards instead this year? That's a safe bet, right? Well, guess what? They' re considered near-cash. So they're taxable too. In other words, anything that can be easily converted to cash, such as gift certificates, securities, stock, or even precious metals, like gold, is taxable.
Non-cash gifts seem like the way to go. A new laptop. A framed poster. Whatever. But, there's a caveat. Employees may receive up to $500 in non-cash gifts in a year. Anything above this amount is, yes, taxable. Although little gifts with a nominal value don't count.
Taxes. That's just one of the gifting quagmires to think about. But there are others too. So what should you know before exchanging gifts at work?
Number one. Know the company policy. The larger the employer, the more likely it is it will have one.
Number two. Spend less, not more. This is not to say that you have to find your inner Scrooge. But if you go overboard on gifts, there's a good chance your recipient will feel uncomfortable.
This rule goes double for the boss. You don't want to be seen as sucking up.
And number three. If someone gives you a gift and you hadn't planned to give them one, you don't have to drop everything and run to the mall at lunch. Instead, you can either keep a stash of random gifts in your desk, or a stash of cards.
Because a handwritten thank-you card is appreciated at any time of the year.