Can You Claim VAT Back On Customer Gifts In South Africa?

Giving gifts to customers is a common business practice in South Africa. It helps build relationships and show appreciation to loyal clients. However, the question arises – can you claim back the VAT charged on these customer gifts? Understanding the VAT implications is key from a tax compliance and financial perspective.

What Items Classify As Customer Gifts for VAT Purposes?

To claim VAT back, you first need to define what constitutes “customer gifts” in the context of VAT legislation in South Africa:

Branded Promotional Items: These include pens, calendars, umbrellas, shirts, and other merchandise carrying your company logo and brand name.

Gift Baskets/Hampers: Baskets with wine, chocolates, baked goods, confectionery, etc., given to clients during the festive season or other occasions.  

Gift Vouchers/Cards: Prepaid vouchers or cards to popular restaurants, spas, stores, etc.

Small Business-Related Gifts: For example, a specialty coffee machine or tablet device is given to an important client.

Promotional items of small value often get grouped under entertainment expenses. More extravagant business gifts follow different rules.

Key Criteria To Deduct VAT on Business Gifts

SARS has set requirements enabling companies to claim input tax deductions on customer gifts:

Recipient Must Be An Existing Customer

VAT back can only be claimed on gifts from existing customers or clients. Before acquiring their business, you cannot claim VAT on gifts provided to potential new clients.

The recipient should have an existing business relationship where they have already purchased your products or services. As an exception, gift hampers given to the customer database, including inactive clients, may still qualify for input VAT.

No Conditions Attached

Customer gifts should have no strings attached. It becomes a transaction if you provide a gift in exchange for something in return – requiring the client to place an order first.

SARS sees this as equivalent to providing goods/services at a discount, which affects the VAT treatment. Unconditional gifts to customers follow the general VAT rules.

Purchase Must Be Wholly For Making Taxable Supplies

As with all VAT deductions, you can only claim back VAT paid on business expenditures when making taxable supplies.

If you make zero-rated or exempt supplies, there may be restrictions on claiming ITCs. Any dual-purpose business purchases also impact how much VAT is deductible.

Valid Tax Invoice Required

To deduct VAT successfully, you must retain valid tax invoices for all business gift purchases. The tax invoice should clearly show the VAT amount charged. Purchases should also be recorded correctly under entertainment/gifts expenses in the accounting system.

Common Business Gifts Where VAT Is Claimable

What types of gifts to customers can you claim VAT back on in South Africa? Some common examples:

Promotional Items Of Small Value

Branded merchandise like pens, notepads, flash drives, etc., is often given away at exhibitions, sales presentations, or other client events. Most promotional freebies with company logos fall under acceptable gifts if given unconditionally to existing customers.

Festive Gift Hampers

Gift baskets are given to all clients or VIP customers during Christmas, Diwali, Eid, or other festivities. These include wine, baked goods, confectionery items, or specialty treats. VAT paid on gift hampers within reason can qualify for ITCs.  

Vendor Gift Vouchers  

Prepaid vouchers for leading stores, restaurants, or leisure chains are sometimes given to loyal customers. As these vouchers help promote other taxable businesses, SARS accepts the VAT deduction subject to regular entertainment limits.

Modest value gifts

On occasion, small gifts under R500 may be given to key client contacts – for example, a bouquet of flowers for a secretary’s day. Modest-value gifts can still get VAT deductions as entertainment expenses.

Ineligible Purchases Where No ITCs Can Be Claimed

However, some common business purchases that clients receive do NOT qualify for VAT deductions:

Cash Gifts Or Direct Money Transfers

Giving cash, prepaid shopping cards, mobile airtime, or direct EFT payments to contacts is prohibited. SARS sees this as non-deductible entertainment expenditure, not genuine business gifting.

Gifts Exceeding R500 Provided Regularly 

If a specific client regularly receives expensive gifts worth over R500 – for example, premium meat hampers every month – it may raise SARS audit flags indicating a non-business relationship.

Staff Incentives Or Internal Gifts

Any gifts purchased for your employees, directors, or family members do not qualify for ITCs. 

These are seen as staff incentives or welfare expenses rather than customer entertainment.

Claiming Input Tax – Records Required

To claim back VAT paid on any customer business gifts:

  • Maintain proper IRP5 certificates for all recipients.
  • Keep valid tax invoices for all gift purchases.
  • Record gifts accurately in the accounting system.
  • Set internal gift policy excluding staff, cash, or regular gifts over R500.

Provided these Entertainment Rules are followed, SARS generally allows ITC claims on genuine customer gifts. But beware – excessive or unusual gift spend may trigger audit scrutiny, so apply reasonable judgment when deducting VAT.


While giving clients branded corporate gifts or festive gift baskets remains a popular marketing practice, claiming back the VAT is not always straightforward in South Africa.

Input tax deductions must meet specific SARS criteria around existing customer relationships, have no conditions attached, be valid tax invoices, and be linked to taxable supplies. Any gifts deemed excessive or given to staff don’t qualify for ITCs.

Can you deduct VAT on a specific client gift purchase in your context? Consult an expert South African VAT registered accountant or use our [free online VAT Calculator] to evaluate your situation. Getting VAT treatments right matters both for financial impact and avoiding SARS disputes down the line.


What is the maximum value I can deduct VAT for a customer gift?

SARS generally allows VAT deductions on genuine business gifts up to R500 per item. More expensive or frequent gifts to the same client contact may not qualify.

Can I buy groceries like milk and bread and claim them as client gifts?

No. SARS explicitly prohibits claiming VAT on everyday consumable items like basic groceries not ordinarily used as business gifts.

Can I deduct VAT on those tickets if I take key clients out for dinners or events?

Entertainment expenses linked directly to providing taxable services can qualify for some VAT deductions, subject to limits. However, these client outings must be recorded separately from normal business gift spending.

What if the tax invoice includes bundle deals – for example, golf shirts packaged with whiskey bottles?

Mixed business gift packs require apportioning the VAT appropriately to determine how much is deductible between disallowed cash/alcohol spent versus permissible branded merchandise.

What are the penalties if SARS disallows my gift VAT deductions in an audit?

Penalties typically range from 100% to 200% of the VAT amount claimed erroneously, based on whether there is gross negligence, intentional tax evasion, or other non-compliance determining factors. Interest accrues from the time of the original claim.

Should my internal gift policy be submitted to SARS as supporting documents during an audit?

Yes. A documented business gift policy excluding regular expensive gifts, staff incentives, and cash demonstrates tax compliance and helps justify entertainment expenses claimed for external customer gifting only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *