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Non-Cash Gifts, Awards and Incentives Policy

Effective Date:  
May 1, 2012

Last Updated:   May 29, 2015  

Responsible University Officer:
  • Vice President for Business and Finance

Policy Owner:
  • Associate Vice President for Accounting and Business Services

Policy Contact:
Policy Contents

   Policy Statement
   Reason for Policy
   Who Should Read this Policy
   Policy Text
   Related Information
   Additional Contacts
   Revision History



In some circumstances, the University may choose to give a gift or an award to an employee in recognition of an outstanding achievement or for length of service, including retirement from the University. A gift may be presented to a student in recognition of a significant academic accomplishment or as an incentive to participate in a University study or other activity. Promotional and appreciation gifts may also be presented to non-employees, including donors, visiting dignitaries, volunteers, and other individuals associated with the University. In addition, a gift may be presented as an expression of sympathy in the event of the death or major illness of an employee or a non-employee associated with the University.

All gifts and awards, whether given to an employee or a non-employee, are subject to the availability of funds and must be in furtherance of a University business purpose. Cash gifts and awards are not allowable under this Policy but may be allowable under another University policy. See Additional Pay Policy and Student Employment Policy.

Departments may establish more restrictive procedures, if desired.


This Policy establishes the standards, allowable dollar limits, and the circumstances and occasions for the making of a gift or an award funded by the University. The Policy conforms to the Internal Revenue Code and applicable Treasury Regulations.


Any employee who incurs gift-related expenses on behalf of the University; the President, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, and Deans, as well as supervisors and Business Managers who supervise an employee incurring gift-related expenses charged to a University fund source.


Gifts to Employees

A gift or award may be presented to an employee to recognize contributions and achievements that are above and beyond the scope and expectations of his or her position. Length of service and retirement awards may also be presented to employees to recognize their service with the University. The following employee gifts and awards are allowable under this Policy:

  • Recognition – A gift of tangible personal property may be given to an employee in recognition of a note-worthy individual accomplishment or as part of a team award for the successful completion of a project. Examples of such gifts include, but are not limited to, flowers, fruit, a book, a plaque, or similar item. In addition, a recognition gift may include a service such as a ticket to an athletic or cultural event (excluding a season ticket). Gifts and awards included under this category are meant to be presented only on an occasional or infrequent basis. 
  • Length of Service or Retirement – A gift of tangible personal property may be presented to an employee as a length of service or retirement award provided the employee has completed at least five years of service and has not received a similar award in any of the four prior years. Such gifts must be presented as part of a meaningful ceremony that is not determined based on an employee’s classification. Under the Treasury Regulations, a gift of services (e.g., a ticket to an athletic event) is not allowable as a length of service or retirement award. 

All employee length of service and retirement awards must be made as part of the University Service and Merit Awards program. See HR Service and Merit Awards Information.

Faculty Awards

Gifts and awards presented to faculty are subject to the same rules applicable to other University employees. Such gifts and awards must be presented for a recognition, length of service, or retirement purpose. For faculty and staff cash awards, see See Additional Pay Policy.

Gifts to Non-Employees

Gifts or awards presented to non-employees may be made for promotional or goodwill purposes; as a token of appreciation for, or in recognition of, a service to the University; in recognition of an academic achievement; or for another University business purpose. Examples of individuals eligible to receive such gifts and awards include a Trustee, donor or potential donor, visiting dignitary or scholar, volunteer, speaker, civic leader, community partner, research subject, or other individuals having a business relationship with the University.

A “gift in lieu of lodging” may be provided to a host by an employee on travel status subject to the requirements included in the Travel and Entertainment Policy.

Allowable gifts and awards under this category may include both tangible personal property and services.

Gifts to Students

A gift or award may be presented to a student to recognize an important academic achievement or similar accomplishment or to encourage participation in a University event or activity. See Prizes and Other Gifts. Allowable gifts and awards under this category may include both tangible personal property and services.

Sympathy Gifts

A gift of tangible personal property, such as flowers, may be presented as an expression of sympathy in the event of the death or major illness of an employee or non-employee associated with the University or a member of the individual’s family or household.

As an alternative, a cash contribution may be made to a tax-exempt charitable organization in lieu of a gift of tangible personal property. Such contribution must be made on behalf of the University and may not be made to any political campaign, party, committee, or similar political group. See Unallowable Gifts.

Prizes and Other Gifts

Raffle gifts and door prizes may be distributed by a department to encourage participation in a University event by employees, students, or other individuals. In addition, departments may provide gifts to employees and nonemployees as an incentive to complete a University survey or questionnaire or participate in a research study. Allowable gifts and awards under this category may include both tangible personal property and services.

Gift Limits

The per-person gift and award limits are set forth in Appendix A. Departments should refrain from making gifts or awards in excess of the per-person limits in order to avoid any tax reporting and/or withholding consequences for the University and the recipient.

Unallowable Gifts

Unallowable gifts and awards include, but are not limited to, the following items:

  • Gifts of cash, except donations to a charity as an expression of sympathy.
  • Gift certificates or cards that are redeemable in cash or can be used to obtain a credit on the recipient’s account with the University.
  • Gifts presented to the same individual on a frequent or regular basis.
  • Gifts provided to employees in connection with birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, graduations, and other occasions of a personal nature.
  • Gifts presented to an immediate family member (i.e., spouse, partner, parent, child, sibling, or in-law) of the University employee making the gift. See Conflict of Interest Policy.
  • Gifts to a political party, campaign, committee, or group engaged in any attempt to influence the general public with respect to legislative matters, elections, or referendums. See Conflict of Interest Policy
  • Gifts to any person with whom an employee has an outside business relationship. See Conflict of Interest Policy.





USF      Additional Pay Policy
USF      Conflict of Interest Policy
USF      HR Merit and Service Awards Information
USF Purchasing Card Policy
USF      Student Employment Policy
USF      Travel and Entertainment Policy
External IRC Section 132(a)(4), De Minimis Fringe Benefits
External IRC Section 274(j), Employee Achievement Awards
External OMB Circular A-21, Cost Principles for Educational Institutions




Business Manager A University employee, designated by the President, Vice President, Vice Provost, or Dean who is the financial manager for the University account(s) being used. This may include the President, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, or Deans.
Business Purpose Travel, entertainment, and other business expenses that are in furtherance of the educational and research mission of the University.
Concur Reporting System The University’s on-line system for payment requests, expense reimbursements, cash advance requests, and reporting.
Purchasing Card A bank-issued Visa card with a standard single transaction limit of $1,000 and a monthly credit limit of $2,500. The card may be used for small dollar, business-related purchases. Cards may be used for gift expenses when authorized by a Business Manager or supervisor.
Service A meal, lodging, monthly parking pass, ticket to an athletic or theatrical event, or similar gift defined as a service under IRS regulations.
Tangible Personal Property Any item of personal property; does not include cash or services.






Accounting and Business Services Frank Wasilewski 415.422.2402 fmwasilewski@usfca.edu
Disbursement Services Dennis Miller 415.422.2102 millerd@usfca.edu
Human Resources Martha Peugh-Wade 415.422.2444 peugh@usfca.edu
Payment Request Emmy Moore 415.422.2706 moore@usfca.edu
Purchasing Card Dennis Miller     415.422.2102 pcard@usfca.edu
Tax Compliance Dominic Daher 415.422.5124 dldaher@usfca.edu





Gifts and Cash Incentives Distribution Log Used to record quantity purchases of gift items Accounting and Business Services
Payment Request Used to initiate payment requests in the Concur Reporting System  Accounting and Business Services
Purchasing Card or Declining Balance Card Application Used to requests issuance of Purchasing Card Accounting and Business Services


Department/Business Manager
  • Approves gift-related expenses in accordance with this Policy, other University policies, and the Concur Reporting System.
  • Obtains documentation to substantiate gift expenses for submission to the Concur Reporting System.
  • Reviews and certifies that all gift-related charges are correct.
  • Ensures budgeted funds available for expenses.
  • Reviews and approves charges in Concur Reporting System.
  • Ensures all expenses are business-related and in compliance with this Policy.
Office of Internal Audit and Tax Compliance
  • Reviews questions regarding the taxability of gifts and awards.
  • Determines correct tax reporting for any gifts and awards approved as an exception to this Policy.
President, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, and Deans
  • Approves any exceptions to this Policy for all employees in his or her division.
  • Ensures all employees in his or her division are in compliance with this Policy.
  • Reviews and approves charges in the Concur Reporting System for his or her direct reports.



  • 05/29/2015 - Revised to clarify any cash award provided to an employee must be paid through the payroll system and to include hyperlinks and references to the Student Employee Policy.
  • 04/11/2013 - Revised to add FAQ on gifts provided to employees and students by a third party. See FAQs
  • 12/06/2012 - Revised to include reference to Gifts and Cash Incentives Distribution Log.  See Forms
  • 05/01/2012  - First publication of Policy.


  • Appendix A - Non-Cash Gift, Award, and Incentive Per-Person Limits