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10:20 a.m. - December 30, 2005
End Of the Year Procrastination
Itís the end of the year, and that means itís our busiest time at work.

I donít know if its procrastination, or waiting to see how one is doing financially, or a combination, but more people put off making their gifts until the wire in December.

(Frankly, we also have a big month in June, at the end of our fiscal year Ė as people remember to make their gift to be included in the honor roll, etc. But December is still our biggest month.)

There are a lot of rules, of course, that the wonderful IRS imposes on taxpayers. And Iíve had to read at my share of IRS publications and look at tax rulings from time to time.

The trickiest rule is the rule on when a gift is counted on December 31 of this year or not. If itís a check, and the gift is postmarked by December 31, then it counts. But on a credit card, it has to be approved and debited against the credit card account by December 31. So if you mail in a credit card gift, and we canít process it until after the new year starts, it doesnít count for 2005. Technically.

At least I say so Ė others in the office disagree and weíve had arguments about it. Yeah, that makes for some workplace drama Ė arguing over the IRS. Next up will be a lunch symposium about the Smoot / Hawley Tariff law and its ramifications in the present day, followed by a lot of beer drinking.

I know itís arcane tax law, and I know itís boring everyone. But it speaks of procrastination. Why wait until the last minute if you want to take a deduction by the end of the year? Why not estimate the income and make the gift earlier? Or better yet, make the gifts in January and February (or July, even). Weíd be sure to process it quickly!

But donors will take whatever deduction they can, and all we can do is provide them a receipt. We canít be their conscious.

ďEbenezer, you canít take that deduction. It wasnít processed until the 5th of January.Ē
ďBite me, ghost!Ē

But the last minute rush isnít just limited to non-profits, though. Many businesses ship as much as they can in December, pushing their employees to the brink during the holidays.

Then in January, thereís nothing for them to do, relatively speaking.

People who work on the floor are used to it, but they really donít like it, because it ruins the Holiday season for them (theyíre too tired to do much of anything), and then in January theyíre bored silly. I know they like the OT, but sometimes the OT isnít worth it if youíre so tired from work you fall asleep on the Christmas ham and someone slaps a pineapple on you.

The publishing company I used to work for did a lot of shenanigans to make sure the books were Ďshippedí by December 31. That included loading books on a trailer, and parking the trailer off site until they could get a delivery appointment in mid-January.

They did these kinds of things at the end of each quarter as well. I know they wanted to make the quarter look better, but itís an endless cycle. Youíre artificially boosting the last month of each quarter, thereby artificially lowering the first month of the next quarter.

I donít think the world would have ended if they decided at some point to just smooth it out to make a more constant workflow. Because if youíre only going to ship X amount of product each year. So pushing people to work 12 hour days and Saturdays (and even Sundays), then basically have nothing for the full-timers to do for the next two weeks doesnít make sense to me, in a business sense.

And if you want to ship more product, then make sure the sales people do their job, and the product is made on time, so the distribution folks donít have to go crazy at the end of the year whilst the rest of the company is barely working.

Silly me, being practical.

In most offices, too, that arenít tied to distribution or year end panics (including some areas of our office, only us who deal with the giving side have to deal with the phalanx of philanthropy) the Christmas / New Years time means a lot of cushy schedules for those who donít punch time clocks, but are salaried.

Dress codes get a bit more casual. Heck, once I went to work in baseball and hockey jerseys and jeans.

Instead of rolling in at 8 or 8:30, people come in around 9, 9:15.

Instead of leaving at 4:30 or so, people take off around 3, 3:30.

Lunches can get liquid.

Face it, sometimes thereís not a lot to do at times when your clients are taking extended holidays themselves. You just need a presence to make sure the world doesnít blow up.

Even those under a time clock get a break, sometimes. ďYou can leave now and Iíll say you left at your normal time.Ē This is nice and builds morale.

So anyway, as youíre lazing around, keep our office in mind. Some of us are putting our nose to the grindstone, hoping to get all of the gifts processed in a timely manner.

Or we were, anyway. Because we have today off as well as the 2nd. Lah-di-dah!


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