National Institutes of Health

National Institutes of Health Ethics Program

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Gifts from Outside Sources

The Standards of Conduct for Executive Branch Employees state that an employee, whether on or off duty, may not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, favor, gratuity, entertainment, or loan, regardless of value, from a prohibited source, nor may an employee accept a gift, or item of value, given because of the employee's official position. The following information will clarify what is considered a gift, and from whom gifts are permitted. The exceptions to the gift acceptance prohibition are also described below. See the Standards of Conduct, 5 CFR 2635, Subpart B, for additional information and proper disposition of prohibited gifts, or contact your IC's Ethics Officials (see link below).


A gift is a gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. It includes services as well as gifts of training, transportation, local travel, and lodgings and meals. Travel related gifts are covered whether provided in-kind (that is, the donor just gives you a plane ticket, or hotel room key), payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred.

A gift is NOT:

A Prohibited Source may be:

A gift is solicited or accepted because of the employee's official position if it is offered by a non-employee and would not have otherwise been offered, had the employee not held the Federal position.

Solicited or accepted indirectly means that the gift was given with the employee's knowledge and acquiescence to a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or dependent relative because of the relationship to the employee; or given to any charitable organization because the employee designated that particular charitable organization.

Exceptions to the Gift Rules (Gifts Which May Be Accepted)

Even though acceptance of a gift may be permitted by the exceptions outlined in the regulation , it is sometimes advisable and prudent for an employee to decline a gift offered by a prohibited source or offered because of his/her official position.  Gifts may generally be accepted from individuals and entities outside the Government  in the following situations.  These descriptions are quite general.  For more details, see the regulation (5 CFR 2635, Subpart B) or consult with your IC's Ethics Officials (see links to DECs and Ethics Office Staff below). The gift acceptance prohibition does have a few limited exceptions which apply to most employees.

Legal Advisory from the Office of Government Ethics

LA-12-05: Speaking and Similar Engagements Involving the Presentation of Information on Behalf of the Agency: This Legal Advisory clarifies when an employee’s participation in an event will constitute “otherwise presenting information on behalf of the agency” for purposes of the “speaking and similar engagements” gift exception at 5 C.F.R. § 2635.204(g)(1). (OGE web site)

Updated: 9/17/12