5 CFR 2635.204 - Exceptions.
The prohibitions set forth in § 2635.202(a) do not apply to a gift accepted under the circumstances described in paragraphs (a) through (l) of this section, and an employee's acceptance of a gift in accordance with one of those paragraphs will be deemed not to violate the principles set forth in § 2635.101(b), including appearances. Even though acceptance of a gift may be permitted by one of the exceptions contained in paragraphs (a) through (l) of this section, it is never inappropriate and frequently prudent for an employee to decline a gift offered by a prohibited source or because of his official position.
(a) Gifts of $20 or less. An employee may accept unsolicited gifts having an aggregate market value of $20 or less per source per occasion, provided that the aggregate market value of individual gifts received from any one person under the authority of this paragraph shall not exceed $50 in a calendar year. This exception does not apply to gifts of cash or of investment interests such as stock, bonds, or certificates of deposit. Where the market value of a gift or the aggregate market value of gifts offered on any single occasion exceeds $20, the employee may not pay the excess value over $20 in order to accept that portion of the gift or those gifts worth $20. Where the aggregate value of tangible items offered on a single occasion exceeds $20, the employee may decline any distinct and separate item in order to accept those items aggregating $20 or less.
(b) Gifts based on a personal relationship. An employee may accept a gift given under circumstances which make it clear that the gift is motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship rather than the position of the employee. Relevant factors in making such a determination include the history of the relationship and whether the family member or friend personally pays for the gift.
(c) Discounts and similar benefits. In addition to those opportunities and benefits excluded from the definition of a gift by § 2635.203(b)(4), an employee may accept:
(1) Reduced membership or other fees for participation in organization activities offered to all Government employees or all uniformed military personnel by professional organizations if the only restrictions on membership relate to professional qualifications; and
(2) Opportunities and benefits, including favorable rates and commercial discounts not precluded by paragraph (c)(3) of this section:
(i) Offered to members of a group or class in which membership is unrelated to Government employment;
(ii) Offered to members of an organization, such as an employees' association or agency credit union, in which membership is related to Government employment if the same offer is broadly available to large segments of the public through organizations of similar size; or
(iii) Offered by a person who is not a prohibited source to any group or class that is not defined in a manner that specifically discriminates among Government employees on the basis of type of official responsibility or on a basis that favors those of higher rank or rate of pay; provided, however, that
(3) An employee may not accept for personal use any benefit to which the Government is entitled as the result of an expenditure of Government funds.
(d) Awards and honorary degrees.
(1) An employee may accept gifts, other than cash or an investment interest, with an aggregate market value of $200 or less if such gifts are a bona fide award or incident to a bona fide award that is given for meritorious public service or achievement by a person who does not have interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee's official duties or by an association or other organization the majority of whose members do not have such interests. Gifts with an aggregate market value in excess of $200 and awards of cash or investment interests offered by such persons as awards or incidents of awards that are given for these purposes may be accepted upon a written determination by an agency ethics official that the award is made as part of an established program of recognition:
(i) Under which awards have been made on a regular basis or which is funded, wholly or in part, to ensure its continuation on a regular basis; and
(ii) Under which selection of award recipients is made pursuant to written standards.
(2) An employee may accept an honorary degree from an institution of higher education as defined at 20 U.S.C. 1141(a) based on a written determination by an agency ethics official that the timing of the award of the degree would not cause a reasonable person to question the employee's impartiality in a matter affecting the institution.
(3) An employee who may accept an award or honorary degree pursuant to paragraph (d)(1) or (2) of this section may also accept meals and entertainment given to him and to members of his family at the event at which the presentation takes place.
(e) Gifts based on outside business or employment relationships. An employee may accept meals, lodgings, transportation and other benefits:
(1) Resulting from the business or employment activities of an employee's spouse when it is clear that such benefits have not been offered or enhanced because of the employee's official position;
(2) Resulting from his outside business or employment activities when it is clear that such benefits have not been offered or enhanced because of his official status; or
(3) Customarily provided by a prospective employer in connection with bona fide employment discussions. If the prospective employer has interests that could be affected by performance or nonperformance of the employee's duties, acceptance is permitted only if the employee first has complied with the disqualification requirements of subpart F of this part applicable when seeking employment.
(4) For purposes of paragraphs (e)(1) through (3) of this section, employment shall have the meaning set forth in § 2635.603(a).
(f) Gifts in connection with political activities permitted by the Hatch Act Reform Amendments. An employee who, in accordance with the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993, at 5 U.S.C. 7323, may take an active part in political management or in political campaigns, may accept meals, lodgings, transportation and other benefits, including free attendance at events, when provided, in connection with such active participation, by a political organization described in 26 U.S.C. 527(e). Any other employee, such as a security officer, whose official duties require him to accompany an employee to a political event may accept meals, free attendance and entertainment provided at the event by such an organization.
(g) Widely attended gatherings and other events -
(1) Speaking and similar engagements. When an employee is assigned to participate as a speaker or panel participant or otherwise to present information on behalf of the agency at a conference or other event, his acceptance of an offer of free attendance at the event on the day of his presentation is permissible when provided by the sponsor of the event. The employee's participation in the event on that day is viewed as a customary and necessary part of his performance of the assignment and does not involve a gift to him or to the agency.
(2) Widely attended gatherings. When there has been a determination that his attendance is in the interest of the agency because it will further agency programs and operations, an employee may accept an unsolicited gift of free attendance at all or appropriate parts of a widely attended gathering of mutual interest to a number of parties from the sponsor of the event or, if more than 100 persons are expected to attend the event and the gift of free attendance has a market value of $375 or less, from a person other than the sponsor of the event. A gathering is widely attended if it is expected that a large number of persons will attend and that persons with a diversity of views or interests will be present, for example, if it is open to members from throughout the interested industry or profession or if those in attendance represent a range of persons interested in a given matter. For employees subject to a leave system, attendance at the event shall be on the employee's own time or, if authorized by the employee's agency, on excused absence pursuant to applicable guidelines for granting such absence, or otherwise without charge to the employee's leave account.
(3) Determination of agency interest. The determination of agency interest required by paragraph (g)(2) of this section shall be made orally or in writing by the agency designee.
(i) If the person who has extended the invitation has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of an employee's official duties or is an association or organization the majority of whose members have such interests, the employee's participation may be determined to be in the interest of the agency only where there is a written finding by the agency designee that the agency's interest in the employee's participation in the event outweighs the concern that acceptance of the gift of free attendance may or may appear to improperly influence the employee in the performance of his official duties. Relevant factors that should be considered by the agency designee include the importance of the event to the agency, the nature and sensitivity of any pending matter affecting the interests of the person who has extended the invitation, the significance of the employee's role in any such matter, the purpose of the event, the identity of other expected participants and the market value of the gift of free attendance.
(ii) A blanket determination of agency interest may be issued to cover all or any category of invitees other than those as to whom the finding is required by paragraph (g)(3)(i) of this section. Where a finding under paragraph (g)(3)(i) of this section is required, a written determination of agency interest, including the necessary finding, may be issued to cover two or more employees whose duties similarly affect the interests of the person who has extended the invitation or, where that person is an association or organization, of its members.
(4) Free attendance. For purposes of paragraphs (g)(1) and (g)(2) of this section, free attendance may include waiver of all or part of a conference or other fee or the provision of food, refreshments, entertainment, instruction and materials furnished to all attendees as an integral part of the event. It does not include travel expenses, lodgings, entertainment collateral to the event, or meals taken other than in a group setting with all other attendees. Where the invitation has been extended to an accompanying spouse or other guest (see paragraph (g)(6) of this section), the market value of the gift of free attendance includes the market value of free attendance by the spouse or other guest as well as the market value of the employee's own attendance.
There are statutory authorities implemented other than by part 2635 under which an agency or an employee may be able to accept free attendance or other items not included in the definition of free attendance, such as travel expenses.
(5) Cost provided by sponsor of event. The cost of the employee's attendance will not be considered to be provided by the sponsor, and the invitation is not considered to be from the sponsor of the event, where a person other than the sponsor designates the employee to be invited and bears the cost of the employee's attendance through a contribution or other payment intended to facilitate that employee's attendance. Payment of dues or a similar assessment to a sponsoring organization does not constitute a payment intended to facilitate a particular employee's attendance.
(6) Accompanying spouse or other guest. When others in attendance will generally be accompanied by a spouse or other guest, and where the invitation is from the same person who has invited the employee, the agency designee may authorize an employee to accept an unsolicited invitation of free attendance to an accompanying spouse or to another accompanying guest to participate in all or a portion of the event at which the employee's free attendance is permitted under paragraph (g)(1) or (g)(2) of this section. The authorization required by this paragraph may be provided orally or in writing.
(h) Social invitations from persons other than prohibited sources. An employee may accept food, refreshments and entertainment, not including travel or lodgings, at a social event attended by several persons where:
(1) The invitation is from a person who is not a prohibited source; and
(2) No fee is charged to any person in attendance.
(i) Meals, refreshments and entertainment in foreign areas. An employee assigned to duty in, or on official travel to, a foreign area as defined in 41 CFR 301-7.3(c) may accept food, refreshments or entertainment in the course of a breakfast, luncheon, dinner or other meeting or event provided:
(1) The market value in the foreign area of the food, refreshments or entertainment provided at the meeting or event, as converted to U.S. dollars, does not exceed the per diem rate for the foreign area specified in the U.S. Department of State's Maximum Per Diem Allowances for Foreign Areas, Per Diem Supplement Section 925 to the Standardized Regulations (GC,FA) available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402;
(2) There is participation in the meeting or event by non-U.S. citizens or by representatives of foreign governments or other foreign entities;
(3) Attendance at the meeting or event is part of the employee's official duties to obtain information, disseminate information, promote the export of U.S. goods and services, represent the United States or otherwise further programs or operations of the agency or the U.S. mission in the foreign area; and
(4) The gift of meals, refreshments or entertainment is from a person other than a foreign government as defined in 5 U.S.C. 7342(a)(2).
(j) Gifts to the President or Vice President. Because of considerations relating to the conduct of their offices, including those of protocol and etiquette, the President or the Vice President may accept any gift on his own behalf or on behalf of any family member, provided that such acceptance does not violate § 2635.202(c) (1) or (2), 18 U.S.C. 201(b) or 201(c)(3), or the Constitution of the United States.
(k) Gifts authorized by supplemental agency regulation. An employee may accept any gift the acceptance of which is specifically authorized by a supplemental agency regulation.
(l) Gifts accepted under specific statutory authority. The prohibitions on acceptance of gifts from outside sources contained in this subpart do not apply to any item, receipt of which is specifically authorized by statute. Gifts which may be received by an employee under the authority of specific statutes include, but are not limited to:
(1) Free attendance, course or meeting materials, transportation, lodgings, food and refreshments or reimbursements therefor incident to training or meetings when accepted by the employee under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 4111 from an organization with tax-exempt status under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) or from a person to whom the prohibitions in 18 U.S.C. 209 do not apply. The employee's acceptance must be approved by the agency in accordance with part 410 of this title; or
26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) is authority for tax-exempt treatment of a limited class of nonprofit organizations, including those organized and operated for charitable, religious or educational purposes. Many nonprofit organizations are not exempt from taxation under this section.
(2) Gifts from a foreign government or international or multinational organization, or its representative, when accepted by the employee under the authority of the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 5 U.S.C. 7342. As a condition of acceptance, an employee must comply with requirements imposed by the agency's regulations or procedures implementing that Act.