Sporting events, theatre shows and concerts have long been sought after events at which to entertain current or prospective clients. Whether it be a Wimbledon final, Les Miserables or Last Night of the Proms; entertaining corporate guests is big business.
Premier League Football, with its global TV appeal, continues to be an attraction for corporate hospitality guests. Football stadia in England have been modernised beyond recognition over the past twenty years. New venues, such as Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, or traditional grounds like Manchester United’s Old Trafford, that have been redeveloped, reflect the demands of 21st Century corporate entertainment.
The London Olympics offers corporations a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide the perfect occasion to entertain influential clients. London 2012 is certainly set to be the hot ticket of the year.
Recent revelations of how certain sections of the media have entertained influential members of the police have shown corporate hospitality in a negative light. Business owners should not be put off however. The Bribery Act is in place only to punish those wishing to take an unfair advantage.
Businesses who seek to provide entertainment for clients need to ensure that they have a policy in place that governs aspects such as level of expenditure and accountability to the appropriate departments of the company, for instance finance, marketing, compliance, etc. The policy should be seen to have been adhered to; where exceptions have occurred, appropriate authorisation needs to be recorded.
Companies who are in receipt of hospitality from suppliers or clients also need to ensure that they have a code of conduct in place to protect the integrity of employees who may be invited to such events.
Corporate hospitality provides an excellent platform for businesses to network with suppliers and customers. Other examples could include the launch of a new product or service, the opportunity to encourage customer loyalty and to make the hosting organisation stand out from the competition.
Entertainment events can also act as an incentive scheme or a team building exercise for employees. Sponsorship plays an increasingly important role in major sports such as football, motor racing, rugby and cricket. It is only fitting that big companies that splash out millions of pounds on sports sponsorship should allow their employees to benefit.
There are, however, tax implications that need to be taken into consideration. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) make it quite clear that members of staff, such as sales representatives, who would be expected to attend corporate hospitality events in order to entertain clients as part of their role within the company, would be exempt from any potential charge on benefits in kind. Other members of staff, who were present purely as a perk of the job, would be deemed as being in receipt of a benefit and therefore would be liable for a charge. Visitors, not employed by the hosting company would be exempt. The company paying for the corporate hospitality would also be able to treat the expenditure as entertaining clients, for which they could claim tax relief.
In conclusion, the benefits of providing corporate hospitality are potentially enormous. Customer loyalty is a highly prized asset to the modern business. As long as correct procedures are in place, and can be demonstrated as being followed, there is no reason for companies to fall foul of the financial regulatory authorities. And if anyone happens to have a spare ticket to the 100m final……