Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns in the House of Commons. File photo

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns in the House of Commons. File photo

Courtenay-Alberni MP sought tax exemption on holiday gift cards

In an effort to bring some holiday cheer to Ottawa, Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns asked the House of Commons for unanimous support on a motion that would exclude gift card purchases up to $150 from employment income for the 2020 holiday season.

“Small business owners have cancelled or postponed staff holiday parties in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Johns. “Many have turned to purchasing gift cards in lieu of more traditional items like door prizes or raffle items.”

Gift cards are considered by the CRA as near-cash items, meaning they are included as a taxable benefit for employment. Where an employee receiving a physical gift is not taxed, an employee receiving a gift card would be.

Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells said the tax exemption was a good way for small businesses, non-profits, and local governments to honour and thank their staff for their hard work during these difficult times.

“As Mayor Chair of the Comox Valley Economic Recovery Task Force, my job is to look for unique ways to increase shopping locally, make things easier for businesses and help employees keep more of their limited income,” said Wells. “Most organizations have decided to give their employees gift cards to local restaurants in lieu of a Christmas party to show their appreciation this year.”

“With seasonal parties cancelled, this would have been a good way for employers to thank their workers. They shouldn’t be taxed for gifts they receive for their hard work this year,” added Johns.

However, Johns could not find the holiday magic in the House of Commons. Shortly after he sought approval, several Liberal MPs voted against his motion, which required unanimous consent, and was defeated.