Dear office party-goer

According to a recent survey, office booze-ups are a growth area. ... S o they should be taxed fiercely, says a weary party pooper
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If it is any consolation, you are not alone. For a start, you have the company of Mr Weims of Accounts, who has edged you into a corner by the plastic canapes to tell you about his astonishing new short-cut from the M25. But what I really mean is that all over the country, in paper-chained boardrooms and bleak rooms over pubs, the Mr Weimses of the nation are coming out of the woodwork.

You may think - indeed, you might hope - that the corporate knees-up has gone the way of the Mercury call-box. But not according to a new survey by Reed Personnel Services. While 80 per cent of firms boasted of having had a party last year, this Christmas the figure stands at a soaraway 81 per cent.

OK, only a 1 per cent shift. But at least it is in an upward direction, and under "Degree of Intoxication", 51 per cent of respondents to the survey looked forward to a greater flow of alcohol than at their 1993 bash, as opposed to a mere 20 per cent whoexpected a more sober affair (the remaining 29 per cent were presumably too hung over from last year to think about it). This is clearly one of our few growth areas.

In an attempt to spread a little goodwill about the place, I am therefore making a suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unlike my usual Yuletide message to him, cordially urging him to extend his Christmas break until at least 31 August, I havethis to say: please, Mr Clarke, slap VAT on office parties! There are only three more taxing days before Christmas. We do not want any pussfooting around with 10 per cent now and 7.5 per cent later: we demand the full 17.5 per cent on all office partiesat once. Ken will be funding his election bribes - and doing us all a favour.

As you reluctant party-goers listen to the managing directors' dire speeches - one actually burst into song, according to the survey - you will derive an inner glow from the fact that it is costing the pompous ass an additional 17.5 per cent on top of the free booze (provided by 57 per cent of all firms surveyed) and grub (60 per cent and rising).

I also recommend extra penalties, each calculated as being 5 per cent of the chairman's share option scheme.

We can forget "Fancy Dress", specified on the invitations of a mere 12 per cent of companies. But a Silly Games Tax would be something else. Treasury officials could approve a levy on all undo-the-secretary's-bra-without-using-your-hands contests. Likew i se those races in which teams have to pass ping-pong balls between their knees without actually engaging in sexual congress.

The Exchequer could also hope to benefit enormously from some sort of Embarrassment Tax. I'm thinking of such acts of foolishness as taking and distributing Polaroid photographs and knocking red wine over brightly coloured clothing. This last clumsiness could be made particularly costly if committed by a board member, since the sum raised should be calculated on a scale that takes into account the perpetrator's annual salary and the number of garments ruined.

Finally, of course, there will be the Sex Tax. This will be levied on all male middle managers ending up in the beds of junior colleagues. Unless, of course, they happen to be married to them. After all, it is Christmas.