Trivial Benefits – What can you give your employees Tax Free?

Receiving a gift from your employer is great but not so great if you’re then taxed on receiving the ‘benefit’.  The employer needs to be aware of whether or not they need to pay tax on the present.

HMRC has published guidance allowing employers to provide trivial benefits without reporting them.

So.. What is a trivial benefit?

HMRC have some pretty strict rules when it comes to what they define as trivial. You don’t have to pay tax on a gift (or in official terms, a benefit) for your employee if all of the following conditions are met:

  • It cost you £50 or less to provide
  • It isn’t cash or a cash voucher
  • It isn’t a reward for their work or performance
  • It isn’t in the terms of their contract.

When all criteria are met, the benefit is known as a ‘trivial benefit’. There’s no need to inform HMRC, and the trivial benefit won’t count towards taxable income or Class 1 National Insurance Contributions. Trivial benefits don’t need to be reported on your annual P11D forms.

Examples of trivial benefits

The type of trivial benefits that are allowed include:

  • A staff meal to celebrate a birthday
  • A Christmas gift for staff
  • Flowers on their birthday
  • A summer party for employees.

If the cost of the benefit is over £50, the whole amount is taxable, not just the excess over £50.

The type of benefits not allowed under the exemption include:

  • Providing a working lunch for employees
  • Anything relating to targets or performance
  • Anything in relation to employment for example team-building events
  • Taxis when employees work late.

HMRC have some good examples to give you some idea of what is and isn’t allowed:

Example A – Benefits allowed as trivial

An employer gifts each of their employees a bottle of wine costing £25 as a Christmas present. However, as some of their staff don’t drink they give them a £25 supermarket gift voucher, which can be used to buy themselves an alternative. Both the bottle of wine and the non-cash gift voucher can be covered by the exemption.

Example B – Benefits not allowed

An employer gives each member of their 25-strong workforce a bottle of wine as a Christmas present. The total bill comes to £1,000. This is for 20 bottles of wine at £15 per bottle given to each of their employees, and five bottles of wine for the directors that cost £140 per bottle.

The £15 bottles of wine don’t exceed the trivial benefit financial limit, but the £140 bottles of wine for directors do.

Is there a limit on trivial benefits each year?

Directors of “close” companies can’t receive trivial benefits worth more than £300 in a tax year.

A “close” company is a limited company with five or fewer shareholders