FAQs: Gifts and Travel Reimbursements




1. How do I value a gift?

Report the fair market value of the gift.  For financial disclosure purposes, this is the retail cost to buy the gift.  If you cannot find the market value of the same item, you may estimate its value by referencing the retail cost of similar items of like quality.  If items of like quality are not readily available in the market, you may make a good faith estimate.

2. Why are the reporting thresholds set at $156 and $390?

The Ethics in Government Act ties the reporting thresholds for gifts and travel reimbursements to the definition of “minimal value” for purposes of gifts under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act (5 U.S.C. § 7342(a)(5)).  The General Services Administration redefines “minimal value” under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act every three years.

3. How do I value a gift of free attendance at an event?

If you received a ticket to the event, use the face value of the ticket.  Do not exclude the value of food and beverages.

To value free attendance at an event in a skybox or private suite, take the value of the most expensive publicly available ticket to the event and add in the market value of food, beverages, entertainment, and other tangible benefits provided to you in excess of what would have been provided through the publicly available ticket.

If no fee was charged to any attendee, value a gift of free attendance by using the market value of food, beverages, entertainment, and other tangible benefits offered to attendees.  The market value of these items is based on the cost you would have incurred to obtain similar items at a comparable location or event.

You may wish to consult an ethics official at your agency for additional guidance.

4. Do I report travel reimbursements for official travel?

No.  However, report any travel payments received under the Government Employees Training Act (5 U.S.C. § 4111).

5. Three people contributed to a single gift worth $400.  Do I have to report that gift?

Yes.  A gift from a group of individuals is considered a gift from a single source for purposes of the $390 and $156 thresholds.  You, therefore, cannot apportion the value of the gift among the three donors and use the $156 exception.  List each person in the “Source Name” column and report the total value of the gift.

6. I received four tickets to an event.  Each ticket has a face value of $100.  Do I have to report the tickets as a single gift worth $400 or can I exclude the tickets from reporting because each ticket is worth less than $156?

Report the tickets as a single gift.

7. Gifts from relatives are not reportable.  Who counts as a “relative”?

The Ethics in Government Act defines the term “relative” for purposes of financial disclosure (5 U.S.C. app. § 109(16)).  The term includes people related to you as: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, great uncle, great aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, or who is the grandfather or grandmother of your spouse.  The term also includes a fiancé or fiancée.

8. What qualifies as a “suitable memento” of a function honoring me?

The reporting exclusion for “suitable mementos of a function honoring the reporting individual” covers items that serve to remind you of the event, whether a mere souvenir or something with a utilitarian purpose.  It is not limited to items of nominal intrinsic value because the basic gift reporting threshold already excludes items worth no more than $156, or $390 in the aggregate from a single source.  An “honoring function” might include a retirement party, personal achievement dinner, or other similar event.

Despite its apparently broad scope, however, this reporting exclusion for mementos is limited by the term “suitable.”  Whether a memento is “suitable” to a particular function depends on the circumstances surrounding the event, such as the types of gifts traditionally given or considered appropriate on such occasions, your position and relationship to the donors, the number of donors, and the gift’s significance to the occasion.

Because the applicability of this exclusion depends on the particular circumstances, you may wish to consult with your agency ethics official for additional guidance.

9. My spouse has been invited to a work-related event, and I will attend as my spouse’s guest.  Do I have to report this gift?

Gifts given to your spouse because of your spouse’s employment or other activities may sometimes benefit you.  This might occur, for example, when your spouse’s employer sponsors an event to which its employees may bring a spouse or other guest.  You do not need to report these gifts so long as the gifts were given because of your spouse’s activities and were not intended to benefit you specifically or to benefit you as a United States Government employee (e.g., the “plus-one” invitation cannot be limited to any spouses who are Government employees).

10. A prospective employer has paid for my travel to an interview.  Do I have to report the travel arrangements as a gift or reimbursement?

Yes, if the travel arrangements meet the disclosure requirements of the general rules for gifts and travel reimbursements.  There is no specific reporting exclusion for items received from a prospective employer.

11. Do I report gifts received by a legal defense fund established for my benefit?

Yes.  Report gifts to a legal defense fund totaling more than $390 from a single source that were received during the reporting period for a fund established for your benefit.  Aggregate all reportable donations from the same source and report if the total exceeds $390.

Source Name

City/State

Brief Description

Value

Matthew Jones

Encinitas, CA

Cash donation to the Audrey Duke Legal Defense Fund

$400

Source Name:  Provide the identity of the source of the gift to the legal defense fund.

City/State:  Provide the source’s city and state of business or residence.

Brief Description:  Describe the nature of the gift and specify the fund to which the donation was made.

Value:  Provide the fair market value of the gift(s).  If the gift is a cash donation, provide the exact amount.

12. Do I report gifts distributed to me by a legal defense fund that was established for a small class of recipients?

Yes.  Report gifts totaling more than $390 that were distributed to you during the reporting period by a legal defense fund that was established for a small class of recipients.  The gift may be reported in such a manner provided that there is independent, public reporting by the fund of donations to the fund totaling more than $390, including donor names, the city/state of the donors, and the value of the donations.

Source Name

City/State

Brief Description

Value

Washington Legal Defense Fund

Washington, DC

Cash distribution from the Washington Legal Defense Fund.  Individual donors to this fund are listed at [website address]

$800

Source Name:  Provide the name of the legal defense fund.

City/State:  Provide the source’s city and state of business or residence.

Brief Description:  Describe the nature of the gift and provide a description of where to locate additional reporting information.

Value:  Provide the fair market value of the gift(s).  If the gift is a cash distribution, provide the exact amount.

13. I am a special Government employee who files a public financial disclosure report.  As part of my primary, non-federal employment, I travel frequently, and my non-federal employer pays for my travel expenses.  Do I need to report these payments as travel gifts or travel reimbursements?

No.  OGE considers these travel payments an expense of the business that employs you rather than a gift or travel reimbursement to you personally.

14. I traveled to give a speech in my personal capacity, and the sponsor paid for the cost of my travel.  Do I need to report this payment as a travel gift or travel reimbursement?

Yes.  Unlike the case of payments related to one’s employment, OGE considers payments related to a speech to be a personal gift or travel reimbursement that a filer must report according to the same rules applicable to all other gifts and travel reimbursements.