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careful with the songs, gifts and tax exposures … | Adam McCulloch

‘What on Earth did we start?’ the people of Nazareth 2,000 years ago would have pondered, with furrowed brows, had they had the ability to stare into a crystal ball at the 21st century’s annual tizz over Christmas.

While every other function of the economy goes into overdrive trying to sell things, cover absences, finish projects, feed people and make elaborate plans, HR appears to rub its hands together and plot how to throw its shade: don’t get frisky at the office party, don’t get drunk and be indiscrete, don’t get a second job to pay for the stuff you’ve bought … and

Personnel Today’s favourite this year, don’t spend more than £150 per head on staff because employees may have to pay a taxable benefit in kind on the outlay. There go our plans for an all-expenses-paid Christmas skiing trip to Val d’Isère.

Many of us will be stumped by this. Who’d have thought it? But through a thicket of email holly has charged specialist tax firm Forbes Dawson which warns: “Under employment tax legislation, staff entertainment is only exempt from tax if the employer pays no more than £150 per person – or an average of £150 to a group of employees if it is impossible to work out the cost per head – each year, including transport.”

That guy is banned!

But Andrew Marr (not that Andrew Marr), managing partner at Forbes Dawson, hasn’t entirely forgotten about the Christmas spirit.

He tells us: “For the exemption to apply, it is also necessary that…

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