Source: Kochie’s Business Builders

It’s that time of year again – what to do for the Christmas party for the team, customers, gifts of appreciation for your favourite accountant (just kidding), etc. Here are our top tips for a generous and tax-effective Christmas season: 

Tax & Christmas

For GST-registered businesses (not tax-exempt) that are not using the 50-50 split method for meal entertainment.


  Exempt from FBT? Tax deductible GST credits
Christmas party on employer premises on a weekday      
Employees Yes No No
Associates of employee (spouses etc.) If <$300 per head If $300 or more per head If $300 or more per head
Customers N/A No No
Christmas party (employer premises on a weekend or external venue)      
Employees If <$300 per head If $300 or more per head If $300 or more per head
Associates (spouses etc.) If <$300 per head If $300 or more per head If $300 or more per head
Customers N/A No No
Christmas gifts (assuming the gift doesn’t involve entertainment)      
Employees If <$300 per head Yes Yes
Associates (spouses etc.) If <$300 per head Yes Yes
Customers N/A Yes Yes
Christmas lunch with customer at external venue      
Employees If <$300 per head If $300 or more per head If $300 or more per head
Associates (spouses etc.) If <$300 per head If $300 or more per head If $300 or more per head
Customers N/A No No


For your business

What to do for customers?

The most effective way of sharing Christmas joy with customers is not necessarily the most tax effective. If, for example, you take your client out or entertain them in any way, it’s not tax deductible and you can’t claim back the GST.  There are specific rules designed to prevent deductions and GST credits from being claimed when the expenses related to entertainment, regardless of whether there is an expectation of generating goodwill and increased business sales. 

Restaurants, a show, golf, and corporate race days all fall into the ‘entertainment’ category. 

However, if you send your customer a gift, then the gift is tax-deductible as long as there is an expectation that the business will benefit (assuming the gift does not amount to entertainment).  

Even better, why don’t you deliver the gift yourself for your best customers and personally wish them a Merry Christmas?  It will have a much bigger impact even if they are not available and the receptionist tells them you delivered the gift.

From a marketing perspective, if your budget is tight, it’s better to focus on the customers you believe deliver the most value to your business rather than spending a small amount on every customer regardless of value. If you are going to invest in Christmas gifts, then make it something people remember and appropriate to your business.

You could also make a donation on behalf of your customers (where your business takes the tax deduction) or for your customers (where they receive the tax deduction).  Donations to deductible gift recipients (DGRs) above $2 are often tax deductible and can make an active difference to a cause.


What to do for your team?

Christmas is expensive. Some businesses simply can’t afford to do much because cash flow is too tight.  Expectations are high so if you are doing something then it’s best not to exacerbate cashflow problems and take advantage of any tax benefits or concessions you can.  

Tree in background with blurred office scene in background

Source: Country Living Magazine

$300 is the minor benefits threshold for FBT so anything at or above this level will mean that your Christmas generosity will result in a gift to the Tax Office as well at a rate of 47%. To qualify as a minor benefit, gifts also have to be ad hoc – no monthly gym memberships or giving one person multiple gift vouchers amounting to $300 or more. 

Gifts of cash from the business are treated as salary and wages – PAYG withholding is triggered and the amount is subject to the superannuation guarantee.

Aside from the tax issues, think about what will be of value to your team. The most appreciated gift is the one that means something to the individual.  Giving a bottle of wine to someone who doesn’t drink, chocolates to a health fanatic, or time off to someone with excess leave, isn’t going to garner much in the way of goodwill.  A sincere personal message will often have a greater impact than a standard gift.