What Christmas party expenses can you claim with the ATO?


Christmas is here, and what better way to celebrate than with a festive Christmas party? It’s a time to gather with your staff, associates, and clients, reflecting on another successful year in your business. However, while you’re busy reveling in the holiday spirit, there’s someone else who’s equally excited about this time of year—the ATO (Australian Taxation Office). In this blog post, I’ll explain why the ATO’s interest in Christmas parties goes beyond just spreading holiday cheer.

Understanding Fringe Benefits Tax:

When it comes to Christmas parties, the ATO is particularly interested in the concept of entertainment and the potential application of fringe benefits tax (FBT). They want you to consider whether FBT applies, if the expenses are tax-deductible, and whether you can claim GST credits.

Who’s Included?:

The tax outcome of your Christmas party depends on the attendees, the amount spent, and the venue. It’s important to note that fringe benefits tax only applies to employees and their associates. Therefore, expenses for clients and other guests will be exempt from this tax. However, there’s a chance to qualify for a minor benefits exemption if the cost per head remains below three hundred dollars and it would unreasonable to treat it as a fringe benefit. Another exemption applies to the food and drink costs of the party if it’s held on a working day, on your business premises, and only current employees attend.

Navigating Entertainment Expenses:

While fringe benefits tax can be avoided with careful planning, it’s essential to understand that entertainment expenses are generally not deductible for income tax purposes, and GST credits cannot be claimed. However, if fringe benefits tax does apply, the expense becomes deductible for tax purposes, and you can claim GST credits.

In either case, the ATO collects more tax!

Exploring Alternative Options:

Are there any other options to consider? Absolutely! Gifts to clients, whether they are current, future, or past, may be tax-deductible if they are given with the intention of generating future assessable income. However, certain exceptions exist, such as gifts that are deemed to be entertainment (e.g. tickets to sporting events or concerts) or gifts of a personal nature (e.g. gifts to family members without reasonable justification). On the other hand, gifts to staff may be exempt from FBT, fully tax-deductible, and eligible for tax credits, as long as they are not considered entertainment and meet the minor benefits criteria.

Navigating the Complexities:

Understanding the ins and outs of claiming Christmas party expenses can be daunting, but don’t let that stop you from having a good time with those who have supported you throughout the year. It’s always advisable to set aside a little extra cash for the ATO, as they have a fondness for ensuring compliance. If you have any questions or require assistance, please feel free to reach out to us. We are here to help you navigate your specific situation and avoid any potential pitfalls.


As the holiday season approaches, it’s important to be aware of the tax implications surrounding your Christmas party expenses. By understanding the ATO’s guidelines on fringe benefits tax, entertainment expenses, and gift giving, you can make informed decisions while enjoying the festivities. Remember, while the ATO may be keeping a watchful eye, with proper planning, you can maximize your tax benefits and create a memorable celebration for all. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous year ahead!

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