The etiquette for corporate gift-giving is very different from personal gift-giving. You must remember what’s appropriate in the business world —and that may not include funny gifts or items of a personal nature. A simple rule of thumb: Use common sense. Your business reputation is at stake. Send only the very best you can afford within those guidelines. Using your best judgment can make your gift memorable and build a better relationship. Ask yourself what your first impression would be if you received that gift. Never send a holiday gift with your logo on it. That can seem insincere, and save items with logos for marketing purposes. If gourmet food is your gift of choice, do your research. Be mindful of people’s food allergies and intolerances. Learn how the item is packed for freshness and make sure it will tolerate the climate to which it’s being shipped. Keep in mind that your gift may arrive while the recipient is taking time off and away from home. Handmade truffles may sound wonderful, but if they’re not shipped in dry ice and are headed to Florida, you may want to reconsider.
Gift-giving may conjure thoughts of joy, the excitement of finding the perfect present and the satisfaction of knowing your thoughtfulness will make someone happy. Nowhere in that process are you apt to think about the IRS, employee handbooks or ethics. If you’re giving gifts to people in your professional circle, you must focus on the cold, hard facts. Know the IRS guidelines and follow them. Business gifts are tax deductible up to $25 per person for the tax year. Packaging, shipping and delivery are not part of this total. This is not a one-size-fits-all guideline. IRS publication 463 can offer more specifics. Not all organizations let employees accept gifts. In that case, you may want to make a charitable donation in the person’s name to a nonprofit or charity they (not you) support. Be sensitive to cultural differences. Hanukkah is often overlooked amid the Christmas frenzy. Pay attention to images on holiday cards and wrapping, and word your cards to reflect the joy of the season, not of Christmas. If you have a multicultural list of people to buy for, do a simple search to learn about gift-giving etiquette in other cultures. Plan ahead. I order my customized holiday cards in August, and then have plenty of time to sign, stamp, address and, most importantly, send before the holiday rush. Starting early means you’re more likely to find what you want in stock, and you avoid rush charges. Yours may be one of the first cards or gifts received, which is a nice touch. Finally, make a list of who received your gifts and what you gave. Note if it was sent or hand-delivered. And what it cost, for future reference and that pesky IRS.