Gifts from Foreign Entities: Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act

Similar to other gift rules, as a Federal Government employee, we may not accept gifts from foreign governments or international organizations except as permitted under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act (FGDA).  Under 5 U.S.C. 7342 (FGDA) an employee may not accept a gift exceeding $390 (effective January 2017) in value from a foreign government or an international organization. For purposes of the FGDA, all international organizations are foreign government entities, including those of which the U.S. is a member. A prohibited gift includes travel expenses exceeding $390 in value unless the travel takes place entirely outside the United States. This statutory restriction extends to the spouse and dependents of the employee. The law does allow the employee to accept gifts valued at $390 or less, which is considered the minimal value. This value is revised approximately every three years.

A tangible gift of more than minimal value may be accepted on behalf of the agency. The Federal Government may accept, under applicable agency gift acceptance authorities, travel and related expenses from a foreign government in connection with travel by an employee as official duty (e.g.,  31 U.S.C. 1353, Sponsored Travel via the HHS-348 mechanism).

In the HHS General Administration Manual Chapter 20-25, Foreign Gifts and Decorations, the section on Gifts of Minimal Value, states that with specific exceptions,

"an employee may not accept a gift of more than minimal value unless it appears that to refuse the gift would likely cause offense or embarrassment or otherwise adversely affect the foreign relations of the United States. If an employee accepts a tangible gift of more than minimal value, such a gift is deemed to have been accepted on behalf of the United States and, upon acceptance, becomes the property of the United States."

Redefinition of Foreign Gifts and Decorations Minimum Value (January 12, 2017)

Summary of Foreign Gifts and Activity Restrictions (January 2017) [PDF, Prepared by HHS]

Procedures for appropriate disposition of such gifts are also included in the HHS Chapter. If you accept a gift on behalf of the US Government, contact your IC's Ethics Officials immediately upon return to the office. In addition, contact them if you need additional information (see links below).

Updated: 8/8/17