This policy discusses the limitations placed on expressions of sympathy, employee recognition and gifts, awards and prizes to employees, development gifts and institutional gifts.


The IRS requires that prizes, gifts and most awards above a nominal amount be reported as taxable income. The University must therefore provide for proper accounting treatment in the limited instances where such gifts and awards are allowable. This policy allows modest occasional gifts to be made to students, employees or immediate family members in expression of sympathy. In addition it allows for occasional expressions of congratulations to employees for length of service awards and for individuals who depart after many years of service.

Expressions of Sympathy

Expenses incurred in connection with expressions of sympathy or support toward employees or students are allowed only as modest and occasional expressions; not to exceed a value of $75. Examples of such support would include death, serious illness or hospital stays for employees, students, or immediate family members.

Employee Recognition and Gifts

Expenses incurred in connection with expressions of congratulations toward employees or students are allowed only as occasional, modest expressions of support and recognition on behalf of the University. These gifts must be gifts of tangible personal property (not gift cards) and should not to exceed $75 in value to any individual, unless approved in advance by the President or Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration (gift certificates issued at the Bistro or the Willamette Store will be allowed up to $20).

University funds may not be used to purchase gifts for any individual in recognition of events such as Administrative Professionals Day, birthdays, weddings, housewarmings, births, or holidays.

For retirements or other departures of long-standing employees (at least ten years of service), non-cash gifts commensurate with the years of service can be provided. (Please note that gift cards are considered to be the same as cash.) Similarly, a department may conduct a modest reception or lunch to recognize the departure or retirement of a long-standing employee. Gifts from University funds for employees who have been here less than ten years would need to be pre-approved by the President or Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration.

Supervisors may thank their employees (Christmas party, Administrative Professionals Day, etc.) with a meal out or with a party paid for by the institution, once per year, with a modest celebration not to exceed $25 per person in value. (This is not to be confused with “business lunches” which are defined by the IRS and described more fully in the Travel and Expense Reimbursement Policy.

Employee Prizes and Awards

In almost all circumstances, prizes and awards are included in the recipient’s gross income if the prize is paid for by the University. Awards of cash (including gift cards) will be reported to the payroll office. Gifts, prizes and awards of tangible personal property of $50 or less can be excluded from gross income.

Development Gifts

Gifts to donors using institutional funds cannot exceed $75 in value unless approved by the President, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, or Vice President for Advancement. Likewise, when University officials are traveling abroad or hosting visitors, University funds may be used to provide gifts (value of $75 or less) as a sign of appreciation or gratitude.

Institutional Gifts

In a limited number of instances the University may want to make a contribution or sponsorship to another organization, in all such cases the contribution needs to be approved in advance by the President or Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration. Gifts to valid charitable organizations from custodial funds will not require additional approval if the source of funds is not institutional funds.

Status: Approved

Effective Date: March 1, 2017

Last Revision Date: March 1, 2017

Next Anticipated Review: Nov. 1, 2018

Responsible University Administrator: Controller

Responsible University Office: Finance and Accounting

Primary Policy Contact: For Questions and Suggestions Contact: Scott Schaefer, Controller, 503-370-6710, or Dan Valles, 503-370-6451

Willamette University


University Services Building -- Rm 104
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6104 voice
503-370-6633 fax

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