What to do When Gifts are Illegal!

What do you do when it’s illegal to give gifts? I know that sounds a little extreme, but there are situations where it is illegal for businesses to give gifts.  Most of the time you see this in the medical profession. Whether you’re a pharmacy rep or you work with patients of some sort, the government has actually outlawed gift-giving. I understand the reason for that. We don’t want someone to be bribing a professional into promoting their products and we don’t want professionals crossing the line and getting too personal.  Although having these boundaries is important, it’s unfortunate that gift-giving has become illegal in certain situations and regulated by the government.

when gifts are illegal

In some cases giving gifts may not be illegal, but you may have a cap on how much you can spend in client gifting over the course of a year. For instance, the financial industry has a cap of $25 per year per client. That’s not a lot of money to spend to assure your clients that you appreciate them.  Even though you may be very limited as to what you can do, it’s still so important to find some way to show your clients you appreciate them. This will make you stand out from the crowd if your clients feel like they are valued by you.

A Loophole

How can you show that appreciation and that gratitude if it’s illegal or you have a very small budget that you can spend? I have a few ideas. One way to get around it, a little loophole, is to add your logo to whatever item you’re giving to the client. As soon as you add your logo to a gift, it becomes marketing material and not an actual gift in the eyes of the government. This is great because it helps you get around those regulations and you can still do some nice things for clients.

Use caution because as soon as you add your logo, it doesn’t feel like as much of a gift as a gift without a logo would.   It’s better than doing nothing at all if you’re very limited, but use it with caution. Put your logo on the gift as discreetly as possible. Don’t make it the center of attention because the gift should be the center of attention. The appreciation should be the center of attention.

When you give love and appreciation out to your clients and touch their heart, they feel valued and they stay with you longer. They tell their friends about you and your business grows by leaps and bounds. So even if it’s illegal, please find an appropriate way to show appreciation to your clients. Don’t cross any boundaries, but let them know you care.

If you need help with that, schedule a call with us. We have a lot of great ideas on how you can work within government regulations and still give value and gratitude to your clients who mean so much to you.  We won’t cross any boundaries and we will always do what is right.


  1. Jill Stodola says

    Hi Deb, I gave a thank you note & coffee gift card to my personal banker. This was for appreciation of a job well done.
    He had to return it. Strict rules in the banking business forbid him from accepting the token from me.
    He was very touched by my gesture, no one had ever done that to him before.

    • Jill,
      It was the thought that counted, right? Unfortunately, the financial industry is very heavily regulated when it comes to gifts. I am sure the note was very much appreciated, though.

  2. Hey Deb, this is an interesting and useful article. Question about your logo on a gift; if it is on the wrapping or the packaging but not on the item itself, does it change things?

    Another situation I never considered a problem but it might be; I frequently give books as gifts. Sometimes I affix a bookplate of sorts that says it is gifted to ________ by me.

    How does that fit in the scheme of things?

    • DebBrown says

      Thanks Terri! I don’t believe that putting your logo on the wrapping will put it in the category of a marketing piece. If it were something like a gift basket and the logo was imprinted on the box, it may still fit in the “marketing” category.

      I love the idea of using a bookplate to identify who it is to and from, however I don’t think that would place it in the marketing category either.

      Bottom line, if you have strict laws, it is probably best to put the logo right on the gift to make sure it is considered a marketing piece. If you aren’t concerned about that, then leave the logo off.

      Great questions!

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