Are Gift Vouchers a waste of money?

Christmas Gifts

As much as £300 million worth of gift vouchers bought in 2014 were unspent according to research by the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (UKGCVA).

Every year 6% of vouchers bought by consumers go unused as they lay forgotten in people’s wallets and drawers.

In 2013 some £2.5 billion worth of gift cards and vouchers were sold in UK retail stores as gifts and £2.25 billion were purchased by businesses as staff or customer rewards. Meanwhile a UKGCVA report shows that in the third quarter of 2014, the gift card and voucher industry grew by 10%. The UK industry as a whole is now worth £5 billion.

Modern technology may provide the answer as digital vouchers, such as those that can be loaded on to a mobile phone, are becoming more popular according to the UKGCVA, and may be more likely to be used because the recipient does not have to remember to take a physical piece of plastic or paper with them to the shops.

Unfortunately, vouchers are a taxable benefit in kind

Vouchers that can be exchanged for cash

These vouchers count as earnings, regardless of who gives the voucher to your employee, so you’ll need to:

  • add their value to the employee’s other earnings
  • deduct and pay PAYE tax and NICs through your payroll
  • report any NICs for the pay period when the last payment is made in the same period

Vouchers exchangeable for goods and services only (non-cash vouchers)

Add the cost of the vouchers to the employee’s earnings – unless they’re luncheon or childcare vouchers. For these, use the voucher’s face value.

Non-cash vouchers that are exempt from NICs

These include vouchers for:

  • travel between home and work on a work bus
  • social functions, such as a Christmas party, up to £150 per head
  • childcare vouchers up to a certain amount

Click to access CWG2__2015_.pdf

Generally, there is no VAT on purchased gift vouchers as they are treated as cash equivalents, its only when they are used to purchase items that VAT needs to be accounted for.

But some vouchers can be subject to VAT as explained in this UKGVCA fact sheet

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