Are Service Awards Taxable Income?


According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in order for a length-of-service award to be excludable from wages, special requirements and dollar limitations must be met. A qualifying award:

• Must be given for length-of-service;
• Cannot be a disguised wage;
• Must be awarded as part of a meaningful presentation;
• Must be an item of tangible personal property (cannot be cash, cash equivalent, vacations, meals, lodging, theater or sports tickets, stocks, bonds); and
• Must meet other special requirements and limitations, discussed below. (Reg. §1.274-8(c))

An award will not qualify as a length-of-service award if either of the following applies:

1. The employee received the award during his or her first five years of employment.

2. The employee received another length-of-service award (other than one of very small value) during the same year or in any of the prior four years.

Note: A traditional retirement award is an exception to the five-year rule. (Reg. §1.274-8(d)(2))

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