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FBT and Christmas Parties

To party on-site or party off-site, that is the question

  • FBT of 49% on taxable fringe benefits
  • Specific FBT exemptions may be relevant when having a Christmas party / end of year function

With 2016 drawing to a close, employers should be aware of the tax consequences of hosting Christmas parties for their staff.

Employers must pay fringe benefits tax (FBT) – at a rate of 49% on the grossed-up taxable value – when certain non-cash benefits (called fringe benefits) are supplied to their employees or their associates (i.e. past, future & current employees and spouses and children of these employees) instead of paying salary or wages.

However, sometimes these non-cash benefits will not be subject to FBT. While the FBT law does not specifically deal with Christmas parties, the following types of exempt benefits are particularly relevant when determining an employer’s FBT liability when hosting a Christmas party:

  • Exempt minor & infrequent benefit valued at less than $3001 (e.g. a catch-all exemption available for current employees and their associates for low value benefits provided on an “infrequent” or “irregular” basis);
  • Exempt property benefit2 (e.g. all Christmas party food and drink provided by the employer that was consumed by a current employee at the party, provided the party was held at the employer’s premises on a business day); and
  • Exempt transport benefits3 (e.g. a current employee’s employer paid for the taxi ride home if the Christmas party was held at the employer’s premises).

Please note that the $300 minor and infrequent benefit exemption applies separately on a per benefit basis (i.e. minor benefit exemption can apply if one present of $250 is provided to an employee and another present of $290 is provided to the employee’s spouse).

Also, the minor benefits exemption is not available for meal entertainment fringe benefits (e.g. food and drink at the Christmas party) if the employer uses the 50:50 split method (i.e. where 50% of the GST-inclusive cost of total meal entertainment is subject to FBT and the other 50% is not) to value meal entertainment. For the minor benefit exemption to apply, the actual method to value meal entertainment expenses must be used.

What is the best way to party (for tax purposes)?

As you can see from the above, the amount of FBT payable can be influenced by:

  • When the party will be held (i.e. for the minor and infrequent benefit exemption the cost of the benefit provided must be less than $300 per head and not provided regularly or frequently);
  • Where the party will be held (i.e. for the property fringe benefit exemption to apply, the food and drink must be provided and consumed by current employees on the employer’s premises on a business day);
  • For whom the party will be held (i.e. the tax consequences are different depending on whether the benefits are provided to employees, their associates or clients).

Interaction of FBT, income tax and GST

As a general rule, when providing taxable fringe benefits to employees or their associates, an employer may be able to claim GST credits and income tax deductions in respect of expenses incurred. However, no GST credits or tax deductions may be claimed when providing FBT exempt benefits to such a group.

However, such benefits provided to clients will not be subject to FBT, and the income tax and GST treatment will depend on whether the benefit is an entertainment or non-entertainment benefit:

  • If the benefit is an entertainment benefit (e.g. a movie ticket or a Christmas meal) – the employer may not claim income tax deductions or GST credits on the cost of providing this benefit;
  • If the benefit is not an entertainment benefit (e.g. a Christmas hamper) – the employer may claim income tax deductions and GST credits on the cost of providing this benefit.

We have mapped out the different tax consequences arising from two different scenarios (i.e. whether the Christmas party is held on the employer’s premises during a work day or not). To highlight the differences between these two scenarios, we have assumed that in both scenarios, only current employees, their spouses and clients attend the event and the employer provides the following benefits to each attendee:

  1. food and drink at the Christmas party;
  2. an entertainment gift (e.g. a movie ticket); and
  3. a non-entertainment gift (e.g. a Christmas hamper).

We have also assumed that such benefits have not been provided on a regular and frequent basis throughout the year.


How can Nexia Edwards Marshall NT help you?

This brief overview gives a broad outline of the application of the FBT law to Christmas time activities. A variety of benefits may be supplied to employees at Christmas time with each containing their own valuation, deduction and exemption rules. Please contact your Nexia Edwards Marshall NT Adviser if you would like to discuss any of the issues mentioned in more detail.

The material contained in this publication is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice or recommendation from Nexia Edwards Marshall. Regarding any situation or circumstance, specific professional advice should be sought on any particular matter by contacting your Nexia Edwards Marshall advisor.

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