United States Office of Government Ethics, Preventing Conflicts of Interest in the Executive Branch

Gifts Between Employees
February 26, 2016

Subpart C of 5 C.F.R. part 2635 governs gifts between executive branch employees.

Note: The rules and exceptions in Subpart B of 5 C.F.R. part 2635 govern gifts from outside sources.

Under Subpart C:

  • An employee may not give (or contribute toward) a gift for the employee's official superior.
  • An employee may not accept a gift from another employee who receives less U.S. Government pay, unless the employee is not the employee's subordinate and a personal relationship justifies the gift.
  • An employee may not ask another employee for a contribution toward a gift for the employee's own official superior or for the other employee's official superior.

These rules do not prohibit an employee from giving a gift to another employee, or accepting a gift from another employee, as long as a personal friendship justifies the gift and the employees are not in the same supervisory "chain of command." Even if a supervisory relationship exists, the official superior may choose to pay market value for the gift, or an exception may apply:

  • On an occasional basis (including for a birthday or annual holiday), an employee may give, and the official superior (or person receiving more pay than the employee) may accept:
    • gifts, other than cash, having a market value of $10 or less per occasion;
    • items such as food and refreshments to be shared in the office among several employees;
    • personal hospitality at a residence which is of a type and value customarily provided by the employee to personal friends;
    • gifts given in connection with the receipt of personal hospitality if of a type and value customarily given on such occasions; or
    • transferred leave, provided it is not transferred to an immediate supervisor.
  • On "special infrequent occasions," an employee may give, and his or her official superior (or person receiving less pay than the employee) may accept, a gift appropriate to the occasion. These occasions include:
    • infrequently occurring events of personal significance, such as marriage, illness, or the birth or adoption of a child (as distinguished from a birthday or annual holiday); or
    • occasions that terminate the subordinate-official superior relationship, such as retirement, resignation, or transfer.

In addition, notwithstanding the limitations in Subpart C concerning solicitations and contributions, an employee may solicit or contribute--on a strictly voluntary basis--nominal amounts for a group gift to an official superior for:

  • items such as food and refreshments to be shared in the office among several employees; or
  • a "special infrequent occasion."

(The Department of Defense has issued an agency supplemental regulation that includes additional limitations on gifts between employees.)


The information on this page is not a substitute for individual advice. Agency ethics officials should be consulted about specific situations.