The tax aspects of Christmas gifts and celebrations

I love this time of the year – there’s lots of happiness going around marked by parties, celebrations and gift hampers! Several businesses are spreading the love by treating their customers and staff to some festive treats. However, even though it is Christmas, the tax law has rules which are applied to gifts, celebrations and entertainment. I have detailed below the tax implications of the Christmas fun so that you do not get a surprise from Santa URA!

The cost of a gift made to an individual is not allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes where the gift is not included in the individual’s gross income.

If you are planning a staff party for your employees or customers, be it at your office premises or at the beach, this most likely counts as entertainment and the cost is not allowable except if you can show that the expenditure was incurred in the production of your business’ income. Therefore, there’s no deduction for the sodas, beers, buffet, the band or queen dancers. Unfortunately, creating happiness for your employees or customers does not count in the tax world.

However, if you are in the business of  providing entertainment, meals and refreshments, you are allowed a deduction for the cost of the items purchased for sale in the ordinary course of your business.

VAT incurred on the purchase of food, beverages, tobacco, accommodation, amusement, recreation or hospitality of any kind is not claimable unless you are in the business of providing entertainment or if the meals or refreshments are supplied to your employees in premises operated by your business or on its behalf, for the sole benefit of your employees e.g. the usual office lunch.

If you are feeling generous and would like to make a charitable donation, bear in mind that certain conditions must be met for the donation to be allowable as a deduction for tax purposes.

First, the donation must be to an organization that is exempt organization. Exempt organizations include amateur sporting associations, religious, charitable of educational institutions of a public character , a trade union, employees’ association or an association established for purposes of promoting farming, mining, tourism, manufacturing or commerce and industry in Uganda, or a body established by law for purposes of regulating the conduct of professionals.

Here’s the catch – for any of the above organizations to qualify as exempt, they must have been issued with a written ruling by the URA to that effect. Technically, a donation to your village church may not qualify for a deduction as the church will most likely not have a written ruling from the URA. Further, none of the organization’s income or assets may confer a private benefit on any person.

The other condition is that the amount of the donation should not exceed 5% of the donor’s chargeable income. For example, a business with 10 million shillings in revenue and allowable expenses of 2 million shillings has chargeable income is 8 million shillings. The value of donations allowable for tax purposes is 400,000 shillings.

Should you donate a gift of property such as a piece of land, the value of the gift is the lesser of the value of the property at the time of making the gift or the consideration paid by the person i.e. the donor, for the property.

Finally, any cash you give to employees as a Christmas bonus counts as earnings, so you’ll need to add the bonus to your employee’s earnings and account for PAYE and NSSF.

All this should not dampen the Christmas mood. There are benefits that are not taxable for example, why not allow your staff a day off for their Christmas shopping?

Merry Christmas!

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