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

Gifts and Payments

An executive branch employee’s gift to an official superior may cause co-workers to suspect that the donor will receive special treatment. Also, an employee may feel pressured if asked to contribute to a gift to a superior. Separately, if an employee solicits or accepts a gift from an outside source that does business with or seeks official action from the employee or the employee’s agency (a “prohibited source”), the public may be concerned that the donor will receive favored treatment as a result of the gift. Even if a gift is from a person or organization that has no official dealings with the employee’s agency, accepting a gift offered because of the employee’s official position may create an appearance of using public office for private gain. Moreover, if an employee receives a payment from an outside source in some circumstances, the public may believe that the employee is serving two masters or is distracted by outside activities. Accordingly:

  • An employee may not give (or solicit contributions for) a gift to an official superior or accept a gift from another employee who receives less pay, subject to certain exceptions.
  • An employee may not solicit or accept a gift from a “prohibited source” or a gift given because of the employee’s official position, subject to certain exceptions.
  • An employee may be prohibited from accepting a payment from a non-Federal source.
Gifts from Outside Sources
Executive branch employees are subject to restrictions on the gifts that they may accept from sources outside the Government.  Unless an exception applies, executive branch employees may not accept gifts that are given because of their official positions or that come from certain interested sources ("prohibited sources").

Awards & Honors
An executive branch employee may be permitted to accept an award or other mark of recognition even if it is from a “prohibited source” or is given because of the employee’s official position.

Invitations from Outside Sources
Generally, Government employees may not accept invitations from outside sources of free attendance at events, such as conferences, unless certain requirements are met. The payment by an outside source of fees charged for an event is considered to be a gift under the ethics regulations. In order for a Federal employee to be able to accept any gift from an outside source, one of the exceptions to the gift rules must apply.

Gifts Between Employees
Unless an exception applies, an executive branch employee may not give (or contribute toward) a gift for the employee’s official superior; accept a gift from another employee who receives less U.S. Government pay; or ask another employee for a contribution toward a gift for an official superior.

Outside Pay for Government Duties
18 U.S.C. § 209 generally prohibits an executive branch employee from receiving any salary or contribution to or supplementation of salary, from any source other than the Government, as compensation for services as a Government employee.

Limitations on Outside Income
Specified political appointees are subject to an outside earned income limitation or to an outside earned income ban, and some political appointees are covered by both restrictions.

Bribery
Under the bribery law, at 18 U.S.C. § 201(b), an executive branch employee may not demand, seek, receive, accept or agree to accept anything of value “in return for being influenced in the performance of any official act.”

Travel
An executive branch employee may be permitted to accept a gift of personal travel (transportation, lodging, and meals), or travel expenses, even if the gift is from a “prohibited source” or is given because of the employee’s official position. Gifts of official travel may be accepted in accordance with a gift statute (and any applicable implementing regulation).