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Christmas party season: Tips and advice

12th Dec 2013
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Christmas party season is here and you may find yourself receiving not just an invite to your own office shindig, but clients', your spouse's and wider networks’, too.

But if this thought strikes you with dread, fear not, as we’ve compiled some top tips to see you through the transition from desk-dweller to social butterfly with ease.

First up, if you’re the organiser of your Christmas party, make sure to take advantage of HMRC’s £150 per person annual tax and NIC-free entertaining allowance that extends into February. The rules are somewhat abstruse and some AccountingWEB members have already asking for technical guidance on the subject.

Make the event open to all permanent employees and keep receipts for any expenditure incurred. The other rules you'll need to follow include:

  • Cost is only tax deductible for employees and their partners - but not business partners or sole traders
  • You need to take all costs into account, including transport, accommodation and VAT
  • If you exceed the £150 limit, individual members of staff will be taxable on their average cost.

Networker and AccountingWEB contributor Mark Lee added that if it’s not your own event, resist the urge to explain how the BIK would apply to the party you’re attending.

“Indeed, try not to even think about it, unless you are the employer, of course,” he quipped.

Once you’ve got the financials out of the way, it’s time to dust off your best clothes and prepare to enjoy the parties.

But don’t let the pressure of self assessment season and the allure of a few free drinks trap you into going too far overboard on the sherry.

Joined-Up Networker and regular AccountingWEB blogger Heather Townsend, meanwhile, offered few sage words of advice for practitioners ahead of their parties:

Say no to that fifth brandy

Just because there are large amounts of free alcohol available, you don't have to drink it all. By all means go ahead and enjoy yourself and let your hair down. But your future career and business prospects may hinge on whether you were the one who photocopied various parts of their body. Remember that many of your peers will upload photos to Facebook. How do you want to be remembered on these photos?

Don’t be a wallflower

Even if you would rather have your teeth pulled out without anaesthetic than socialise with your work colleagues at the Christmas party, do make sure you go. Give yourself a target of having a chat with the key influencers who will be there, then you can head home.

Your aim is to be seen by the people who matter. Then you can go home. After all, you can always claim family duties or poor train connections for your early exit. 

Boss’s round

If you are the boss, get the first round of drinks in for your team.

It's the little things that your team will notice - and getting the first round in is always a good way of earning a few brownie points. 

Set yourself up

Line your stomach before you attend the party. The little canapes that go around at a cocktail party are never enough to counteract the free booze on offer. Try to have a banana or a glass of milk before you head out.

Arrange some wheels

Have your transport home arranged in advance. It can save a huge amount of angst later and help you out if you find it hard to say no to the 'let's make this a long night'...

Don’t talk shop…

It’s often hard to not talk business at these types of events. After all the common thread you have with other guests is that you work for the same employer. But take the time to get to know your work colleagues more deeply than from superficial conversations about work. 

So, let your hair down and eat, drink and be merry. It is a busy season for accountants and any chance of relief from self assessment and difficult clients is to be welcomed. Just do it safely and without going too far overboard. 

For further reading, see: 

What are your tips for the Christmas party season? Do you have any funny stories from years past to share?


Replies (29)

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By JCresswellTax
13th Dec 2013 09:21

Milk or a Banana?











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By JCresswellTax
13th Dec 2013 09:22





Is this serious?

Once again, milk or a banana? Seriously?

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Replying to carnmores:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
13th Dec 2013 10:06

hey come on JC!

The old milk or a banana stomach-lining trick does help. And keeping off the Jaeger bombs, of course.

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
13th Dec 2013 11:46

Jaeger bombs

seemed like a good idea at the time :(

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By SteveOH
13th Dec 2013 11:56

It's milk AND a banana for me

I'm not taking any chances, an' no mistake.

And what's a Jaegar bomb when it's at home? I must be getting old, although it does sound fun :)

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
13th Dec 2013 12:01


For us Oldskool party animals think depth charge.

Jaeger bombs are what the youngsters drink and think its never been done before...

...My god listen to me  - I do sound old...

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By Eddie2000
13th Dec 2013 12:13


Whats a Christmas party??? Been 6 years+ since we last had one....

Times is tough!!!!

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By Paul Cleverley
13th Dec 2013 12:25

Merry Christmas

From Santa and his ho ho ho's.

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By Flash Gordon
13th Dec 2013 12:54

The ideal party

My ideal party is the sort where I'm at home, with no human company. No queues for the mince pies, the booze is free, no need for a taxi, no embarrassing photos, no regretting those comments that you thought were funny but that on reflection probably add to why everyone thinks you're a bit odd, no forced conversation that reinforces the fact that you're like a fish out of water at social events, no standing in the corner wondering how you're going to manage forced conversation to pass the time (did I mention that 30 seconds feels like an eternity). I really don't like parties. I have a curry tonight with a couple of friends and a lunch tomorrow with one friend (and I know I'll enjoy both once I'm there), but I'm so looking forward to tomorrow afternoon when I can shut the door on the world and hibernate till 2014! 

You can't beat a quiet night in with a cup of tea :)

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By Eyo
13th Dec 2013 12:57

Is it 'milk and banana' OR 'milk or banana'? Just curious....

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By Rachael White
13th Dec 2013 13:04

Just a thought.

How about a banana milkshake?

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Replying to Tim Vane:
By mrme89
13th Dec 2013 14:16


Rachael_Power wrote:

How about a banana milkshake?


Nothing like a greasy burger and strawberry milkshake from McDonalds to cure the hangover :)

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
14th Dec 2013 10:21

Have fun and be yourself

I love a good party, but I am not interested in all that nonsense and rubbish about making sure the right people see you.

 I find people are human and will just get on, if you are all talking and having a laugh.  The top bosses or important people who are nice are not interested in all that either. They are wanting to chill out as well.  You will probably find they will come towards you at the bar or something like that ,and you end up just having a great chat.  I admit I am Irish and the minute someone hears an accent someone always chats.

I do know one thing though when I walk into a room that no one in the room is more important then anyone else and I am not more important then them.  So I really could not careless who does what  or how high the role is everyone deserves the same time and respect.

In fact when someone is doing that they always come across as extremely rude as they are waiting for the next target of important people to meet . That then gives the impression their bored with the person they are talking to no matter how polite it is done.  I must admit I am always glad when those type of people leave a party as that is when the proper party starts. I had three this year and another one tonight which I am looking forward to.

I was at one party last year where we had milk in the whiskey, it did work but when it is at that stage.  A nice glass bottle of Irn bru the next day will get you going. 

At that time of night get rid of social media types and face bookers and what happens at  party stays at the party.


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By StevieG
13th Dec 2013 13:25

christmas party

I presume therefore sole shareholder/director and spouse can spend £150 each on christmas party backed up by relevant vouchers?

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Northumberland flag
By MJShone
13th Dec 2013 13:34

Re Sarah Douglas - please, please, please...

...don't adulterate whisky (or even whiskey - or even bourbon) with milk. Or banana for that matter.

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
13th Dec 2013 13:38

okay fair enough

But it was a bit like having a Baileys without the chocolate and we were all having a good laugh.  I have not tried Whiskey with banana but it could be interesting.

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By johnjenkins
13th Dec 2013 13:39


Pint of milk an hour before booze time and a pint of water before bed time. In between is just a dozy haze until you get that dreaded tex picture of you smooching with the blowup doll that billy nomates bought to the do.

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By lme
13th Dec 2013 14:01

what does "extends into february" mean?

I thought this was for an annual party at any time of the year (usually Christmas).


please can anyone explain the reference to february



and I might try a whole bunch of bananas and a gallon of milk to be on the safe side...



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By johnjenkins
13th Dec 2013 14:38

Or a hare

of the dog. Trouble is that always sets me off again hic.

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By geraldw
13th Dec 2013 14:59

sole trader party

As a sole trader who employs his wife, can I claim £150 for her and her spouse ?

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By Lisa_Mandy
13th Dec 2013 15:08

Mine is tonight!

Plan of action:

1.  Eat a decent lunch (DONE).

2.  Pick one drink and stick to it - dodging the champagne on arrival and the nasty cheap wine on the tables.  I'll put my hand in my pocket for some vodka tonics and stay away from the jaegerbombs (HA - saying that now, but will almost certainly change my mind and start driving the party bus myself at 10.30pm).

3.  Get the meeting and greeting and schmoozing done by 8pm.

4.  Two paracetemol and a litre of water before I go to bed.

5.  Greasy fry up and two cups of builders tea at the caff down the road around 10am tomorrow.

6.  Go finish the Christmas shopping.

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By dialm4accounts
13th Dec 2013 15:27

Keep off the booze, it's more fun!

I'm near-teetotal - I found in my student days that drinking just made me sleepy and I enjoy myself more if I stick to the sparkling mineral water / lime juice and lemonade / elderflower cordial :)

Plus the fact it's great fun to tease bleary-eyed colleagues the following morning, because they can't remember what they said / did - but I can!!!




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By Shay Daly
13th Dec 2013 15:43

Christmas Party
Parties are for fun not starchy affairs where you and your colleagues are being measured.If you don't want to enjoy the evening and feel that you should be on promotion watch,stay home you sad jerk.

Thanks (5)
Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
13th Dec 2013 17:53


That is what I was trying to but you said in 3 lines better.  If you do not want to be there or only going to promote  then stay at home.  Your dead right there are supposed to be fun and the organiser puts a lot of work in.  I always enjoy myself anyway. 

Thanks (3)
Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
13th Dec 2013 18:00


Hmmm, as mine is a family business maybe I could get away with recovering £150 a head on "business Christmas  party" which happens to be on the 25th??

Even better next year when Miss KA will be 13 and officially on the payroll.


Ba Humbug!

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By petersaxton
13th Dec 2013 21:29


I went to a Christmas works do and the Finance Director was very generous with buying drinks all over the place. When I bought a round of drinks, somebody joked about claiming it as a tax deductible expense - I was self employed - but I pointed out that's not possible!

A few days later I saw that the FD had claimed all the drinks he bought on his expenses!

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By alan lowrey
14th Dec 2013 09:55

annual parties

HMRC's Employment Income Manual (EIM 21691) does not specify that the event must be a Christmas party nor does it make any reference to "extending into February".

In fact, the Manual suggests that the event can be something such as a Christmas party or a summer barbecue. It goes on to say that there is no need for the number of events to be limited to one per year as long as the inclusive value of the benefit per employee (and spouse or partner) does not exceed £150.


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By Steve Kesby
14th Dec 2013 11:48

Extends into February

I imagine Rachael's "extends into February" point is a reference to the Tax Return filing deadline, as well as acknowledging the point that Alan makes.

At a firm I used to work for we had both a firm-wide Christmas party and then the head of each department also took their department out for dinner.

In the Tax department, because of the 31st January deadline, we used to have our Christmas lunch in February, and we used to go to Barcelona for it á la EasyJet.

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By nodhedz
17th Dec 2013 17:10


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