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Non-Cash Employee Award and Other Gifts Guide

This guide provides information about how to properly provide a non-cash award or a non-cash gift to an employee.

A non-cash award may be presented to an employee in recognition of a special achievement, length of service, or retirement. A non-cash gift may be provided to an employee, or a member of the employee’s family or household, as an expression of sympathy.

This guide does not cover gifts presented to non-employees as tokens of recognition or appreciation. This topic is discussed in the Guide to Non-cash Gifts Presented to Non-employees. Please contact the FAST/AP Help line at 459-4488 with questions or locate your representative directly.​​​

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  • Length of Service Awards

    Important Information – Length of Service Awards

    Due to the passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, effective January 1, 2018, the following gift types are treated as taxable compensation and are reported to Payroll because they are not considered personal property for purposes of Length of Service Awards:

    • Cash (Not Allowable)
    • Cash Equivalents
    • Gift Cards
    • Gift Coupons
    • Gift Certificates
    • Meals
    • Lodging

    Please contact should you have any specific questions about Length of Service awards and what may be considered taxable income to the recipient.

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  • Award and gift conditions

    Employee Recognition Award

    • Awards are provided as part of an established recognition program that does not discriminate based on job classification.
      • Examples include local awards program, Thumbs-up program, student employee recognition and incentive program.
    • Items awarded must be tangible personal property of minimal value.
      • Examples include non-negotiable gift certificates, flowers, a book, or a plaque. In addition a transit pass, or ticket to a single sporting or cultural event is allowable.
    • Awards are expected to be presented on an occasional, non-routine basis.
      • An employee may not receive more than three recognition awards in a calendar year.

    Length Of Service Award

    • Recipient must have completed as least five years of University service.
    • Recipient must not have received a similar award in any of the prior four years.

    Retirement Award

    • Award must be presented as part of a meaningful ceremony.
    • The value of the award presented cannot be dependent on the retiring employee’s job classification.
    • Excludes "farewell" or "graduation" gifts

    Sympathy Gift

    • A sympathy gift may be presented to an employee or member of the employee’s family or household in the event of the death or major illness of the employee or member of the employee’s family or household.
    • Includes a gift to recognize a birth

    Prizes and Other Gifts

    • A department may provide a door prize, gift card, a one-month parking permit, or other item of tangible personal property to a student or employee as an incentive to participate in a business-related event or activity, such as completing a survey or questionnaire.

    Spot Awards

    • A gift certificate or card may be presented to recognize individual and/or team accomplishments.
    • Refer to the "Special Situations" topic for information about quantity purchases of spot awards.

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  • Allowable costs

    These types of items may be presented as an award or gift:

    • An item of tangible personal property
      • Tangible personal property consists of items that can be seen or touched.
      • Examples include flowers, books, pens, clocks, UCSC logo attire, or a ticket to a single sporting or cultural event.
    • A one-month parking permit.
    • A non-negotiable gift certificate or card, such as a store-value bank, department store, and/or other retail card, that meets all of the following criteria:
      • Inscribed with the recipient's name
        • If a gift card cannot be inscribed, the employee must be informed that the card cannot be transferred to another person.
      • Not transferable
      • Confers only the right to receive tangible personal property
      • Cannot be redeemed for cash or used to reduce the balance due on the recipient’s account with the merchant
      • Cannot be used to purchase services, such as a spa treatment or golf lessons
    • Cash contribution to a charity (sympathy gift only) that meets all of the following criteria:
      • A transmittal letter on official University letterhead stating that the donation is being made on behalf of the University must accompany the contribution.
      • A contribution may not be made to a political campaign, or political party, committee or group.

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  • Unallowable costs

    The following types of gifts may not be presented under any circumstance:

    • Cash, except a donation to a qualified charity as a sympathy gift.
    • A negotiable gift certificate or card.
    • A recreation membership.
    • A gift certificate or card for services of any kind, including spa treatments, recreation memberships, golf lessons, or facials.
    • A season ticket to sporting, cultural or similar events.
    • A gift made in connection with a birthday, wedding, anniversary, holiday, or other occasion of a personal nature.

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  • Authorization and approval

    Important things to know:

    Only a department head with officially delegated authority may approve the reimbursement or payment of an award- or other gift-related expense.

    The award recipient's supervisor is responsible for tracking the number and amount of recognition awards received by an employee for the purposes of complying with the award and gift limitations described in Topic 2 "Award and Gift Conditions"

    An exception may only be approved by the Chancellor, or his or her officially authorized designee.

    • An exception request must include the recipient name, type of award, purpose of award, and the special circumstances requiring the exception.
    • An exception is to be avoided because it may result in undesirable tax consequences for the recipient.
    • You are advised to consult with the Financial Accounting and Reporting Unit before requesting an exception.

    An employee having delegated authority may not approve his or her own reimbursement request.

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  • Ways to pay

    A CruzBuy purchase order is the preferred method for procuring Gifts. However, in the event that the desired Gift is not available through CruzBuy, please use one of the other methods below.

    Note: The UCSC Purchasing Card may not be used to purchase gifts due to financial control risks involving the default general state funds (“19900”) code that is commonly associated with most purchasing cards.

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  • Maximum per-person spending rates

    These per-person spending limits apply to the value of awards or gifts presented.

    Employee Recognition Award, one of the following may be provided:

    • Tangible personal property or non-negotiable certificate or card with a value of up to $75, or
    • One-month parking permit with a value of up to $255, or
    • One-month transit pass with a value of up to $255.

    Length Of Service Award:

    • Tangible personal property or non-negotiable gift certificate or card with a value of up to $400

    Retirement Award:

    • Tangible personal property or non-negotiable certificate or card with a value up to $400.

    Sympathy gift, one of the following may be provided:

    • Tangible personal property or non-negotiable certificate or card with a value of up to $75, or
    • Cash contribution to an eligible charity up to $200

    Prizes, spot awards, and other gifts:

    • Tangible personal property or non-negotiable gift certificate or card with a value of up to $75.

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  • Requesting a direct payment

    Follow these steps to request a direct payment.

    1. If this is the first time the recipient will be receiving a UCSC non-payroll payment, complete a Payee Setup 204 form.
    2. Complete a Direct Payment form and obtain approval from an authorized expense approver.
      • Attach supporting documentation, such as original receipts. Refer to the “Receipt and Documentation” topic for more information
    3. Submit the Direct Payment form to the divisional or departmental business office for review and “second-tier” approval.
    4. The divisional or departmental business office will submit the form and supporting documentation to the Financial Administrative Services and Transactions/Accounts Payable Office (FAST/AP) for processing.
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  • Receipt and documentation requirements

    Important information to know:

    Reimbursement: The following information must be provided with a reimbursement request form or payment request form.

    • Original, itemized receipt, including an acceptable electronic receipt, for expenses of any amount
    • Name, affiliation, and title of the gift recipient
    • Description of the gift
    • The business reason for making the gift, or the business benefit derived or expected to be derived from making the gift
    • A copy of the transmittal letter or card

    Reporting of an award to an employee of another department:

    • The awarding department is responsible for notifying the award recipient's supervisor of the type and amount of the award for the purpose of tracking all awards presented to the recipient.

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  • Funding sources

    A limited number of funds may be used to purchase gifts.

    Employee recognition, length of service, and retirement awards:

    • State funds and various University-controlled non-state funds may be used
    • Extramural funds may be used only if explicitly allowed under the terms of the applicable award

    Sympathy gifts, prizes (door, raffle), spot awards, and incentive and other gifts

    • Various University-controlled funds may be used
    • Neither federal nor state funds may be used

    Contact your divisional or department business office for more information about funds availability for purchasing non-cash awards and gifts.

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  • Special situations

    Quantity Purchase of Spot Awards
    Spot awards are gift certificates or cards purchased by a department in quantity for presentation during the fiscal year in recognition of an employee or team accomplishment.
    All of the following requirements apply to making a quantity purchase of gift certificates or cards:

    • The quantity of certificates or cards purchased must be equivalent to the number expected to be awarded during the fiscal year.
    • The value of each gift certificate or card many not exceed the per-person limits described in Topic 7 "Maximum per-person spending rates."
    • Unissued gift certificates or cards must be kept in a secure place, preferably a locked receptacle.
    • The department must maintain inventory records that include information about certificates and/or cards both issued and on-hand.

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  • Common oversights

    Ensure a trouble-free experience by avoiding these common errors:

    • Forgetting to submit original receipts with a reimbursement or payment request.
    • Forgetting to forward the completed Direct Payment form to the divisional funding authorizer for review and approval.
    • Forgetting to include account code (FOAPAL) information on the Direct Payment form.
    • Forgetting to sign the reimbursement or payment request.
    • Forgetting to provide award information to the award recipient's supervisor when the recipient is not a member of the awarding department.
    • A first-time reimbursement requester forgetting to submit a Payee Setup 204 Form.
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  • Policy references

    This policy applies to this campus business process:
    Business & Finance Bulletin G-41: Employee Non-Cash Awards and Other Gifts

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  • Where to get help

    Assistance is available for the following topics:

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