You’ve received business gifts, right? Maybe it was a calendar from your pest control company, or perhaps a birthday card with a gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse from your financial advisor.

Have you given a business gift? Great idea. Before you whip out your credit card, let’s stop and think this through. This is a business move, so treat it seriously.

Consider these factors:

  • What do you hope to achieve by giving his gift?
  • Who is the gift for? Is it for a long-standing client who has a major account with your company? Or is it for a prospective client you’d really like to land? Are you trying to build a new relationship, or solidify an existing one?
  • Would it be better to distribute smaller gifts to the entire team, or one large gift to the boss or the person you interact with most on a weekly basis?

Next, consider the person you are gifting. Does their company even allow them to accept gifts? This is where a little research or a phone call could save you serious embarrassment. Maybe your insurance agent gave you something, but that does not mean they can accept something in return. In medicine, insurance, and any sort of financial service, there are often rules against accepting gifts.

If your business associate can accept gifts, what do you get them? The best business gift ideas come from knowing that person and what they like. Not what you like, what they like.

Consumables remain a popular choice, but use caution. While everyone eats, many people have dietary restrictions for medical or religious reasons. Alcohol is the same way–it’s one thing to buy a nice bottle of wine for a client who really enjoys wine and visiting vineyards and so forth. But to others, a bottle of alcohol might be offensive.

Concert tickets or tickets to a game can be fun, and if your client cannot use them, they can be easily re-gifted. Which brings up the tricky point of re-gifting. It can be a useful way to recycle items. For instance, if you’re vegan and someone gives you a nice wooden box of vacuum-packed salmon, you can certainly wrap it up and give it to someone who enjoys fish. However, don’t take that old tote bag or squeeze bottle you got at a conference last year and give them out. You’ll do more harm than good.

If you want to try something different, here are a few ideas:

  • Pele Plantation’s Coffee Club will deliver rich, Kona coffee right to your door every month.
  • Manpacks lets the user choose from an array of men’s products like soap, razors, and deodorant, and then have them sent on a regular schedule.
  • Graze sends out neat little boxes loaded with eight different tasty snacks including everything from dried fruit to pretzels with dipping chocolate.

You may have heard there are tax benefits to business gifts. As with all tax issues, do your homework.

Here are two points direct from the IRS:

  • “You can deduct no more than $25 for business gifts you give directly or indirectly to each person during your tax year.”
  • “Any item that might be considered either a gift or entertainment generally will be considered entertainment. However, if you give a customer packaged food or beverages you intend the customer to use at a later date, treat it as a gift.”

When giving business gifts, remember to be authentic and be ethical. A thoughtful gift at the right moment can help build a lasting business relationship, so put the same consideration into it that you would any other business decision.

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