Every worker should find out his or her employers attitude to accepting gifts from clients and suppliers. Its unwise to assume that accepting a gift is a normal part of the relationship with a client. The recipient can be open to charges of corruption and bribery, no matter how absurd this may seem.
Most organisations recognise this problem. They have a policy in place that discusses the acceptance of gifts, benefits and hospitality.
Furthermore, anyone who reads such a policy soon discovers that gift giving and acceptance is not always a simple issue. Rarely will an organisation ban the acceptance of all gifts outright.
Promotional gifts are common in business. They include pens, diaries, calendars, key rings and computer mouse mats. The value of these gifts is usually under £10 each.
As a result, many organisations let workers keep them. When the gifts are bottles of wine and boxes of chocolates, some employers run in-house raffles. The money raised goes to charity.
An organisation must have a clear approach to hospitality.
Normally, a worker can accept lunch from a client on two assumptions. The first is that the lunch is an opportunity to talk about business.
The second is that at some stage, the worker reciprocates and offers to buy the client a meal.
Business lunches and dinners are often a matter of course. The workers who accept them usually have expense accounts to return clients hospitality. What matters is that an organisation has written this arrangement into its policy.
Refusing a gift may cause offence. A worker who does business around the world needs to be aware that other cultures may view the giving and acceptance of gifts as an essential courtesy.
Employers should include such scenarios in their gift policies. The usual approach is to accept a clients gift and notify a manager.
Charities, councils and government agencies generally advise workers never to accept gifts from grateful members of the public. Again, this attitude may cause offence.
Gift policies should make the point that it may be best to take a gift and register acceptance with a supervisor or manager.
A gift policy must include a warning about influence. If workers receive a gift, they must make it clear to the giver, if necessary, that acceptance will not influence a decision.
Workers should be polite and thank the giver. They must never give the impression, even in jest, that gifts lead to favours.
A cash gift from a client is subject to income tax. Other gifts are not taxable unless a gift is worth more than £250 in any year.
The latter may apply when the gift is not a one-off. It may be a season ticket at a sports venue, for example.
Each visit to the venue may be worth less than £250 but the total value over the course of a year may exceed this. If so, the recipient should declare the gift to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
HMRC assesses a cash equivalent value for all declared gifts. When a gift recipient disagrees with a valuation, he or she must supply evidence of the true value.