Coming up with decent gift ideas isn't always straightforward. Younger children usually desire the latest fad (which they'll probably soon lose interest in), while older generations tend to buy what they need and are notoriously difficult to satisfy.

In many ways, you can't go wrong with gifting shares in a company. Sure, it may not generate as much initial excitement as, say, the latest PlayStation console, smartphone, and so forth. However, it is one of the few things that has a decent chance of growing in value, turning money into more money, and there are few gifts in stores that list that as one of their attributes.

Key Takeaways

  • Stocks make wonderful gifts, regardless of the recipient's age or the occasion.
  • When choosing which stock to buy, consider the recipient's hobbies and interests, and then find a company operating within that area that has a decent chance of appreciating in value.
  • Shares can be gifted via brokerage accounts, through specialist online apps, or in some cases, directly from the company.
  • If the stock you choose stretches beyond your budget, consider buying fractional shares instead.
  • Gifting stock may be subject to gift tax and will trigger a taxable event when the recipient eventually decides to sell.

Buying gifts that adults actually want without breaking the bank is no easy task, but stock could perhaps help them to one day generate enough funds to purchase that one thing they don't have and have always wanted. For kids, it's a slightly harder sell because they probably don't have any long-term dream for which they're saving up. But that's bound to change at some point in the future, and learning about managing money and investing early should serve them well later in life.

Which Stock Should I Buy?

There are many companies out there, and choosing the right stock(s) requires careful consideration. The goal is to make this gift as compelling and profitable as possible, so you'll want to consider the interests of the person you are buying for as well as the growth potential.

Have a good think about what the recipient likes and find a company that operates in that area. Then go through its accounts, apply some valuation metrics, or speak to an advisor to determine if it would make a good investment. Your best bet would be to draw up a shortlist of several companies first and then analyze each of them until you find one that is attractively priced and poised to grow in value for years to come.

If you need some inspiration, take a look at what GiveAshare believes are the top 10 stocks to gift loved ones:

  1. The Walt Disney Company (DIS)    
  2. Apple, Inc. (AAPL)
  3. Manchester United Plc. (MANU)
  4. The Coca-Cola Company (KO)
  5. Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (SPCE)
  6. Nike, Inc. (NKE)
  7. Nintendo Co., Ltd. (NTDOY)
  8. Pfizer Inc. (PFE)
  9. GameStop Corp. (GME)
  10. Starbucks Corporation (SBUX)

Fractional Shares

You might find that buying even one share in a company is more than you can afford. In this case, fractional shares, if available, may be your best option.

When they go public, companies issue a set number of shares, each of which represents a portion of ownership. However, it is sometimes possible to buy a slice of one share or stock, called a fractional share, and essentially invest a dollar amount of your choosing in a given company. Unless you are feeling especially generous, this may be necessary because some shares, such as Amazon.com's (AMZN) and Google parent Alphabet's (GOOG, GOOGL), cost in excess of $2,000 per share.

Many online brokerages permit investors to buy fractional shares for as little as $1 to $10.

ESG

If you or the stock's recipient cares deeply about how companies behave and conduct their business, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments should probably be high on your shopping list. ESG investing basically involves only purchasing stocks in companies that, according to independent third parties, prioritize environmental and societal responsibility. There are three boxes that need to be ticked before a company can qualify as ESG, and they are:

  • Environmental: The E in ESG looks at how a company takes care of the planet. This can include how it generates energy and disposes of waste as well as its treatment of animals.
  • Social: The S in ESG examines how the company manages relationships with its stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates.
  • Governance: The G in ESG deals with how the company is run. Important factors considered here include fair executive pay, shareholders having their say, a well-balanced board of directors, and the use of accurate and transparent accounting methods.

In short, the goal is to make as much money as possible by investing in companies that are deemed good for society. Obviously, going the ESG route means limiting your choice of available investments. However, there's also the argument that using an ESG-based screening process to select stocks will result in investment in companies that are at a lower risk of being hit by big scandals that damage their share prices.

Where to Buy Stock Gifts

Gifting stocks has never been easier and can be achieved from the comfort of your home fairly quickly. There are several options available to you. Some of the most common include:

  • Brokerage account transfer: Buy the stock with your brokerage account and then transfer it to the recipient, assuming they also have an account. For kids, you'll probably want to set up a custodial account, leaving you in control until they hit a certain age.
  • From the source: Some companies allow you to purchase their stock directly from their website.
  • Online app: There are plenty of apps out there that specialize in gifting stock. Examples include GiveAshare, UniqueStockGift.com, SparkGift, and Stockpile.

Gifted Stock Tax Considerations

Before taking the leap and buying your loved ones wonderful stock gifts, it's important to be aware of any present or future tax bills. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might charge you for making the gift if it's a large one. The recipient—if all goes according to plan—will also be expected to pay capital gains tax when they eventually decide to cash in on your present.

Gift tax

For most people, the gift tax, a federal tax applied to gifts, won't be an issue. Donors aren't taxed on stock gifts unless they are worth more than $15,000—or $30,000 for couples—and exceed the lifetime gift tax exemption, which as of 2021 is set at $11.7 million. Spouses are excluded from this tax too, so if you are gifting stock to your husband or wife, there's nothing to worry about here.

Capital gains

When a stock is eventually sold, the IRS must be notified, and the investor (the recipient, in this case), will be taxed accordingly, depending on the holding period, their tax bracket, and the gain that was made relative to the original purchase price.

If the recipient sells the investment within one year at a profit, they will have made a short-term capital gain, which is taxed as ordinary income. Waiting beyond a year to sell generally leads to a better outcome because long-term gains are taxed at lower capital gains rates.

Like ordinary income tax, capital gains rates become steeper as an individual's income for the tax year grows.

Gift givers should also know that the recipient's capital gain is determined by how much the investment originally cost. In other words, if the stock was purchased for $100 and several years later sold for $1,000, the recipient would be taxed on a profit of $900.

Of course, there's a chance that the gift doesn't pay off. If things go pear-shaped and the stock is eventually sold at a loss, it still must be reported. Fortunately, capital losses can serve as deductions on the investor's tax return, bringing down the total amount of capital gains or, failing that, shaving up to $3,000 per year off regular taxable income. Capital losses can also be deferred for use in future years until the total amount of the loss is exhausted.