Guidelines for Government Gift Giving

‘Twidth="300"is the season of yuletide, carols, and…regulated gift giving?

It might seem like there’s a tiny heart “two sizes too small” in the office of Government Compliance and Ethics when it comes to gift giving guidelines set for government officials. However, these policies exist to prevent the potential of a token of appreciation becoming an incentive, bribe, or obligation.

That’s not to say you can’t show appreciation for your fellow government officials and coworkers; gift giving is perfectly acceptable as long as the laws, regulations and gift giving guidelines are followed.

The basic theory behind government gift giving is this: if it can be conceived as a bribe, or sway a government official to make a particular decision, it’s ILLEGAL.

If you err on the side of caution, both you—and your governing official—will never have to doubt if you are in the “safe zone.”

Do’s and Don’ts for Government Gift Giving

DO consider alternative forms of appreciation. Sending a card or inviting a government official to an office party is perfectly fine, as long as the office party includes other clients and personnel.  

DO consider the concept that less is more. Small tokens of appreciation, valued at $20 or less (and less than $50 per individual per year) are acceptable. Sometimes, however, kind words of appreciation are more appreciated than any cookie basket (unless, of course, they are Black Mountain Software cookies…those are exceptionally delicious!).

DO keep it modest. Not only should gifts be modest, but parties too! So skip the champagne and caviar, and opt for a more modest menu.

DO keep tokens of appreciation appropriate. Avoid cards and gifts that are inappropriate or unprofessional. Overly personal gifts, spirits, or items in bad taste are inappropriate and can be misconstrued.

DON’T assume your recipient celebrates Christmas. It is best to give a generic “happy holidays” greeting rather than a Christmas-specific well wishing.

DON’T be upset if an official returns your gift. Many government employees won’t accept any sort of gift to ensure they adhere to the rules.

DON’T leave others out. Offering identical gifts, sending the entire office a card, and inviting more than just one government official to a function helps maintain a fair and level perception.

Don’t let regulations dampen your seasonal yuletide! You can still show government officials and coworkers your appreciation with small tokens and nice words.


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