There is no separate fringe benefits tax (FBT) category for Christmas parties and you may encounter many different circumstances when providing these events to your staff. Fringe benefits provided by you, an associate, or under an arrangement with a third party to any current employees, past and future employees and their associates (spouses and children), may attract FBT.
Implications for taxpaying body
If you are not a tax-exempt organisation and do not use the 50-50 split method for meal entertainment, the following explanations may help you determine whether there are FBT implications arising from a Christmas party.
Exempt property benefits
The costs (such as food and drink) associated with Christmas parties are exempt from FBT if they are provided on a working day on your business premises and consumed by current employees. A taxable fringe benefit will arise in respect of an associate of an employee who attends the party if not otherwise exempt under the minor benefits exemption.
Exempt benefits – minor benefits
You should note the change in the ATO view to the application of the minor benefits exemption to Christmas parties and gifts. The minor benefits threshold of less than $300 applies to each benefit provided, not to the total value of all associated benefits.
The provision of a Christmas party to an employee may be a minor benefit and exempt if the cost of the party is less than $300 per employee and certain conditions are met. The benefit provided to an associate of the employee may also be a minor benefit and exempt if the cost of the party for each associate of an employee is less than $300. For the FBT year beginning 1 April 2006 and prior years, the minor benefits threshold was less than $100 rather than less than $300.
Gifts provided to employees at a Christmas party
The provision of a gift to an employee at Christmas time may be a minor benefit that is an exempt benefit where the value of the gift is less than $300. Where a Christmas gift is provided to an employee at a Christmas party that is also provided by the employer, the benefits are associated benefits, but each benefit needs to be considered separately to determine if they are less than $300 in value. If both the Christmas party and the gift are less than $300 in value and the other conditions of a minor benefit are met, they will both be exempt benefits.
Tax deductability of a Christmas party
The cost of providing a Christmas party is income tax deductible only to the extent that it is subject to FBT. Therefore, any costs that are exempt from FBT (that is, exempt minor benefits and exempt property benefits) cannot be claimed as an income tax deduction.
The costs of entertaining clients are not subject to FBT and are not income tax deductible.
Christmas party held on the business premises
A Christmas party provided to current employees on your business premises or worksite on a working day may be an exempt benefit. The cost of associates attending the Christmas party is not exempt, unless it is a minor benefit.
The above advice is intended as a guide only. Please contact Eclipse Accounting Group if you require additional information or clarification on any issues or rules.