In my understanding, the below are 4 general scenarios listed in decreasing order of benefit to the employee:
Scenario 1: You're given a Pixel phone, no tax burden on employee.
In some scenarios, the employer may pay any tax on the value of the gift.
You benefit the full value of the gift
Scenario 2: You're given a Pixel phone, employee pays tax on the value of the gift.
You benefit $400 US (let's assume you paid $300 tax on the value of the gift).
Scenario 3: Pixel phone donated to registered charity, donation is in the name of the employee
Employee gets to deduct the tax component from their salary. In reality it may not be this "clean" as tax may vary across employees
You benefit $300.
Scenario 4: Pixel phone donated to registered charity, donation made in the name of the employer
Employer claims the tax deduction.
You benefit $0.
Google / Alphabet appears to have chosen Scenario 4.
I am not a tax lawyer!
My understanding of tax law is based on the Australian environment. Other tax jurisdictions may throw these numbers off, wildly.
Excludes non-financial factors e.g. warm fuzzy feelings.
Anyone who knows better is welcome to chime-in! I'd be curious to know of significantly different tax rules in other countries.