Holiday Party Hat invitationsNow that Thanksgiving is officially over, the next big event for the holiday season is the company party. With the economy picking-up, and the 2013 end-of-year shopping season off to a good start (up 2.3 % over last year thanks to shopping on Thanksgiving Day), hopefully your small business is sharing in the prosperity and is planning some type of holiday party in the coming weeks.

However, don’t feel too much the Scrooge if you can’t manage a party this year you’re not alone. A recent American Express OPEN survey found that only a third of small businesses, down from 40% last year, are planning holiday parties for 2013.

If you are going to party this year, two recent posts from Entrepeneur.com provide help with planning. Start with Simple Solutions for Better In-Office Parties, and then for help with bringing it all together read 3 Apps to Help You Plan a Super-Fun Office Holiday Party. Also check out this BizBash infographic on the State of Corporate Holiday Parties which can help you make many planning decisions. For example, it reports that 45% of holiday parties have open bars while 4% provide no alcohol at all; the most common expenditure is $21-$56 per person; and the most common date for the party is mid-December, though 6% of parties are held in January. If you are on a tight budget, check out this post on inexpensive corporate holiday parties.

No matter what you want to spend, you can spend more if it is tax deductible. If you invite only employees to the party it is a wholly tax deductible expense. But add in customers, friends and family, and you’ll need to carefully track deductible and non-deductible expenses. This holiday party tax guide from Fox Small Business Center provides the help you need to take the maximum deductions.

Of course, you also need to be aware that there are legal issues involved with throwing a holiday party. As a small business owner, you could be liable for the behavior of your employees not only during the party, but after it. With parties, especially those where alcohol is provided, you need to worry about sexual harassment, and about driving while intoxicated. For example, this recent court ruling found the employer liable for a drunken driving accident related to drinking done at a company party, even though the intoxicated employee had been driven home from the party safely prior to getting in his own car.

Other things to consider are being sensitive to multiple religious beliefs, employee food allergies and special diets, and mandatory attendance. For example, if you require attendance hourly employees may have the right to be compensated for showing-up. The National Federation of Independent Businesses post, Tips for Keeping Holiday Office Parties Safe and Fun, provides a list of dos and don’ts that will help you protect your business while enabling your employees to celebrate. XpertHR provides advice for employers on minimizing liability with regard to office parties as well as a Holiday Parties Toolkit.

No matter how simple or elaborate your party, remember that it is all about showing appreciation for the people who help your small business succeed whether they are employees, customers, family or friends. Don’t get so bogged down in the food, drinks, venue, and activities that you forget to use the occasion to personally say thanks to everyone for their contributions and support throughout the year.

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Image Credit: Holiday Party Hat invitations by jcbonbon, on Flickr

Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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