When the big scandals about corruption in Latin America and South East Asia involving German companies became public, even those who had not cared about such things before hurried to established so-called “compliance guidelines”. The obvious goal of this was to stop the widespread corruption during procurement and securing orders, especially in emerging countries. That ‘tradition’ had reached intolerable levels in some areas where it had been historically widespread before. However, in many cases it has now become impossible to even give small gifts to show appreciation to long-standing business contacts.

 

Of course, no one wants one of their business contacts to get in trouble with their superiors. On the contrary, the present is meant to bring joy; whether it’s a birthday present, or the traditional gift for Christmas or New Years, which is a good time to look back at the last business year.

Should your business partner’s company have banned all kinds of presents, there is no way to send them even a small gift of appreciation. Normally, though, at least in Germany, you shouldn’t run into any problems, if you stick to the following guidelines:

 

1st rule: Be mindful about the price

In Germany, gift up to 35.00 Euros (before tax) are tax-deductible for the gift giver. In reverse, that means that these presents can be accepted without the fear of repercussions. This threshold hasn’t been raised for a long time now, but should still allow for a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of red wine. Several big companies’ guidelines require the recipient to notify their employer, but that only serves transparency, the gift can be kept. Public offices, tough, are a different matter. Be aware that this also includes refuse collection, winter road maintenance and other daily helpers. For them, presents are only allowed after prior clearance from their superiors. In this case, the price doesn’t matter.

Leaving aside legal matters, it is advisable to follow the following rules if you want your gift to have the desired effect of feeling appreciated:

 

2nd rule: Don’t use a typical giveaway

You have a couple of ball pens left from the last trade fair, the kind that costs only cents? You’d be well advised to leave that in the box, as these things are not at all suited for a personal gift. High quality pens with only a small and tasteful inscription or company logo, on the other hand, are perfectly fine. The latest trend is individually designed shoehorns, lighters or ice scrapers. (This might not apply, should your company deal with shoes, tobacco or cars.) Overall, there is definitely a development toward high-end items.

 

3rd rule: Neutral gifts are best

Unless you know your business partner very well, and friendship has evolved beside the business relationship, you should refrain from gifts such as chocolates or perfume, as they might leave a bad impression. The distinctive scent of the perfume might be just the wrong one for the person, and an overweight business partner might miss-interpret the box of chocolates as a not-so-subtle hint. Nowadays it is also no longer common to gift alcoholic beverages or tobacco (cigars). Only do that if you definitely know that the recipient actually appreciates such things. Otherwise, you might achieve the exact opposite of your intention.

 

If you are unsure what to give, an invitation to dinner is almost always possible. Depending on the circumstances it does not always have to be an extensive five-star dinner. But dinner invitations hardly ever post a problem, neither for the one invited, nor for you, as hardly any tax deductions are possible.

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