Gift cards and gift certificates are taxable income if provided to an employee (including student employees) and must be reported to Payroll to be imputed into the employee's paycheck, regardless of the amount. Because of this, providing gift cards or certificates to employees is strongly discouraged. Units interested in recognizing an employee should abide by Human Resources' recognition guidelines (e.g., "Low/No Cost Recognition Ideas for Employees guidelines").
In lieu of a gift card or certificate, you may provide an item of tangible property (e.g., a Cornell mug, T-shirt) tax-free if it is provided infrequently and if it is low-cost (i.e., under $50).
Subject to the exceptions below, gift cards or certificates may not be provided to students or non-employees.
Gift cards or certificates may be given under the following circumstances:
- Examples fitting this exception:
- Example 1: A "Best Costume" prize at a faculty or staff Halloween party
- Example 2: Two winners of a raffle at a large faculty or staff holiday event
- Examples not fitting this exception:
- Example 1: A professor giving gifts cards to any student in a class receiving a B or better grade.
- Example 2: A manager giving a subordinate faculty or staff member a gift card.
Any questions regarding the forgoing rules should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.