You’re treading in tricky waters if you’re a boss looking to give employees a gift on their birthday. What you think is a humorous gift could end being offensive to the recipient (lawsuit, anyone?), overly expensive gifts can give rise to tax burdens (and jealousy among employees) and a cheap and boring gift is… well, cheap and boring. A gift card is always a solid option, but if you want something more creative, explore these ideas:
Beyond the Boring
CBS News created a comprehensive list of gifts that are perfect for employers who want to avoid handing out a bunch of hackneyed gift cards. Their list includes food items like gourmet coffees and chocolates, personalized gift baskets and utilitarian gifts like car organizers and flash drives that have been customized with the company logo. Their other ideas include stress relievers like essential oils or a personal assistant for a day.
Utilitarian or Festive
Utilitarian gifts such as a pen and pencil holder or another desktop essential are welcome, if unexciting. Staplers and paper clips, after all, are just not that much fun. Give your employees something festive that they normally wouldn’t buy for themselves. Flowers or a fun bouquet of balloons make for a fun birthday gift, and although they aren’t particularly useful, they work like a charm when it comes to boosting morale.
The Taxman Cometh
According to Forbes, the annual limit for tax-free cash gifts in 2013 increased from $13,000 to $14,000. But before you whip out your checkbook and give your employee several thousand dollars, you should note that these rules don’t apply to business owners and their employees. If you give an employee cash, he or she will have to pay income tax on it, and you will have to pay tax on it as well. While symbolic gifts like a birthday cake or flowers are exempt from this rule, other gifts may need to be counted as income by your employee, according to Forbes’ discussion of gift-giving myths.
Birthdays, Holidays, First Days
Birthdays aren’t the only holidays where you might want to give gifts to your employees, but giving gifts on traditional holidays can be complicated from a religious, cultural and legal standpoint. If you want to celebrate your employees, think about giving them gifts periodically on days that are not tied to religious or cultural festivals. Alternatively, give them gifts to celebrate their tenure with the company or to mark special milestones.
Gifts can be a fabulous way to welcome new employees to the fold. Warby Parker, an online eyeglasses store, gives new employees a blend of practical and symbolic gifts when they start. If you can combine value and significance, you have found the holy grail of gift giving, and your employee will thank you for that.
Guest post by Erik Wilson. Erik graduated Hofstra University with degrees in finance and management. Now he provides small business solutions in the greater New York area and blogs in his spare time.