EP Examination Process Guide - Section 3 - Initiation of an Examination - Regulations on Gifts From Outside Sources


Under the regulations on gifts from outside sources (5 C.F.R. 2635, subpart B), Government employees are generally prohibited from accepting gifts from any prohibited source or gifts that are offered because of their official position.

A prohibited source is a person or organization that seeks official action by your agency; does business or seeks to do business with your agency; has activities that are regulated by your agency; or has interests that may be affected by you when you are doing your job.

A "gift" is any item, tangible or intangible, having monetary value (including services, training, transportation, local travel, lodging, and meals).

However, certain items that might otherwise be gifts are explicitly excluded from this definition, including:

  1. Modest items of food and refreshments (e.g., coffee and doughnuts) offered other than as part of a meal;
  2. Greeting cards and other items with little intrinsic value, such as plaques, which are intended solely for presentation;
  3. Discounts available to the public or all Government employees;
  4. Prizes from contests open to the public;
  5. Anything paid for by the Government or secured by the Government under Government contract;
  6. Any gift accepted by the Government under specific statutory authority; and
  7. Anything for which the employee pays market value.

Notwithstanding the General Rule above, there are certain exceptions which permit an employee to accept a gift from a prohibited source or given because of his/her official position in specified circumstances. Examples include:

  1. Unsolicited gifts with an aggregate market value of $20 or less per occasion (provided that the employee does not receive more than $50 worth of gifts from the same source in a calendar year);
  2. Gifts based on a personal relationship;
  3. Certain other discounts and similar benefits available to broad classes of Government employees;
  4. Specified bona fide awards and honorary degrees for meritorious public service or achievement so long as they are not given by a person who, or an organization a majority of whose members, have interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee's duties;
  5. Gifts based on outside business or employment relationships;
  6. Meals, lodging, transportation, and other benefits including free attendance at events given by certain political organizations to employees who, in accordance with the Hatch Act, as modified, actively participate in political management or in political campaigns, when provided in connection with such active participation;
  7. Gifts of free attendance provided by sponsors of conferences and similar events on the day that the employee is participating as a speaker or panel participant;
  8. Gifts of free attendance at widely attended gatherings and similar events where the invitation is extended by the sponsor (or from a person other than the sponsor if more than 100 people are expected to attend the event and the gift of free attendance has a market value of $250 or less), and it is determined that the employee's attendance will further agency programs and operations;
  9. Social invitations based on official position from persons other than prohibited sources where no fee is charged to anyone in attendance;
  10. Gifts accepted by employees under specific statutory authority.